NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing and the state is having trouble keeping up with testing. Now, They’re adding more testing sites and expanding hours but reaching the state’s new testing goals is going to be tough.
The governor says we may be going through the COVID testing process for about another year and right now, a lot of people are trying to get a test, it’s causing long lines and delayed results. The state’s top doctor says to really get a handle on the virus, they’re going to have to do a little more than five times their initial goal of 5,000 daily tests.
“We did a calculation today and in order to do enough testing to really identify the cases that are out there, that are spreading coronavirus to other people, we’d have to do 26,000 tests a day. I mean remember when we thought 5,000 was a lot? So, this is a very serious situation,” said Secretary of the Human Services Department Dr. David Scrase.
At a Thursday COVID-19 state update, the governor said we may need to even get up to 50,000 tests a day. the most recent numbers show the state is doing an average of nearly 13,000 tests a day. To work toward the 25,000 to 50,000 goals, the state is opening more sites in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Sunland Park, and Socorro.
To get results faster, about a month ago the state started what’s called pool testing where you can test several samples at a time and if one comes back positive, then you’d test them individually. Now, with the high test positivity rate, that strategy isn’t helpful. “Pooling… it is up and running. It’s on three machines at the TriCore Lab. It doesn’t work when 10% of the people have the coronavirus. It only works with low-frequency populations,” Dr. Scrase said.
Staffing testing sites is going to also be a big issue. Firefighters will be running some of the testing sites. The state is also looking at opening different kinds of testing sites like ones that only use oral rather than nasal swabs to cut back on actual medical personnel.