Riverside County to begin testing residents without symptoms for coronavirus

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Riverside County modified its guidelines to allow residents who don’t have COVID-19 symptoms to get tested for the respiratory illness, officials announced Friday.

About 30,000 people have been tested for the coronavirus so far at the county’s four test sites, health care centers and other locations, according to a statement from the county.

“We’re testing people already when they’re sick, but we need to understand how COVID-19 is affecting people who may generally feel well, including kids,” the county’s public health officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser said in the statement.“That’s going to be a key indicator for understanding how it spreads and knowing where our areas of concern are when we think about if and how much to open things again.”

Testing in the county was previously limited to people who have COVID-19 symptoms or have had possible exposure to a confirmed case.

“We will no longer be requiring that those who want to be tested have symptoms. So, you can get a test even if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19,” said Kim Saruwatari, director of the Riverside University Health System-Public Health, at a news conference Friday.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Riverside County climbed to 2,457 Friday with 69 deaths. More than 200 patients with the respiratory illness were in the hospital on Friday and 544 people had recovered, according to Riverside University Health System.

Testing is currently available at the following locations in Riverside County:

  • Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio (Tuesdays through Saturdays)
  • The Diamond Stadium in Lake Elsinore (Sundays through Thursdays)
  • The parking lot at Harvest Christian Fellowship Church in Riverside (Tuesdays through Saturdays)
  • The Perris Fairgrounds (Tuesdays through Saturdays).

The county’s fifth coronavirus testing site is set to open Wednesday at the Blythe Fairgrounds on 591 N. Olive Lake Blvd.

Those who want to get tested must first call 800-945-6171 to schedule an appointment at their preferred location. People who show up at the sites without an appointment won’t get tested, officials said.

“We will continue to expand testing capacity as we increase our supplies,” Saruwatari said.

As supplies are brought in, additional labs open up and testing becomes more available, public health agencies have been working on expanding testing for the coronavirus across the state.

Los Angeles County on Friday announced it will be providing free same-day testing for all its residents who show coronavirus symptoms. L.A. County was previously limiting testing at its sites to those who are considered most vulnerable, but has since eased restrictions to allow for anyone with symptoms to sign up online to get tested.

Public health officials across the state have emphasized that people who do not show symptoms don’t need to be tested as supplies remain limited. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, a cough and shortness of breath, and may appear between two to 14 days after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC’s guidance on who should be tested for COVID-19 prioritizes hospitalized patients and health care workers with symptoms first, and then people who have symptoms and are in long-term care facilities, are 65 and older or have underlying health conditions, as well as first responders with symptoms.

“As resources allow, test individuals in the surrounding community of rapidly increasing hospital cases to decrease community spread, and ensure health of essential workers,” CDC’s guidelines read, recommending, as a next step, tests for anyone with symptoms and health care workers, first responders and people in communities with high numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The CDC lists those without symptoms as “non-priority” for coronavirus testing.

Riverside County put out a call for volunteers last week, urging residents to sign up to care for COVID-19 patients at nursing and assisted living facilities.

This was after after dozens of residents had to be evacuated from a Riverside nursing home after employees didn’t come to care for patients for two days in a row, according to health officials. The facility had nearly 40 novel coronavirus cases confirmed among its residents and employees.

The county has formed outreach teams to help staff at skilled nursing facilities by providing them with protective gear and information on how to prevent the spread of the virus, according to the health director.

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