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How Testing for COVID-19 Works in Long Beach

From Councilwoman Suzie Price’s Office

There have been a lot of questions recently about the testing and positive test result numbers as well as how many tests have been performed and, if someone is experiencing symptoms, how they get tested. These are important questions as we all seek to keep ourselves safe, as well as sane, in the face of serious global concerns. I hope this message will provide some additional understanding of how testing works with an overview of COVID-19 testing protocols.

An overview of the testing protocol for COVID-19 as of today:

  • If an individual is experiencing symptoms, they should call their medical provider.

  • Their medical provider will evaluate the patient and decide if testing is warranted.

  • If the provider determines a patient should be tested, they will take a swab of the patient's nose and/or throat.

  • That swab is put into a viral transport media to be sent to a laboratory for testing. The media allows microorganisms like coronaviruses, which are typically not very hardy, to survive long enough for them to be detected in the lab. The media used to transport COVID-19 is in extremely short supply nationwide and is one of the main reasons why testing capacity is limited.

  • Laboratories use machines and reagents to run tests on the samples received from medical providers. Reagents are a key component to "test kits." This is what causes an identifiable reaction in the presence of the virus. Reagents, like transport media, are in extremely limited supply across the nation as well.

  • Once a lab completes a test, they send the results back to the medical provider who requested them. Positive results are required to be reported to the local public health jurisdiction, usually through electronic lab reporting.

  • The medical provider then determines the necessary course of treatment and/or quarantine for that patient. The local public health jurisdiction determines whether a case investigation is warranted.

There are several types of laboratories processing COVID-19 tests: public health, commercial, academic and private labs.

  • The City of Long Beach is uniquely positioned to allow us to prioritize emergent needs in this public health crisis. We operate our own public health lab that allows us to prioritize the most critical results and provide direct services to our hospitals as they test and evaluate their most acute patients. We are fortunate to have this essential resource.

  • Long Beach Health Lab currently processes an average of 30 tests per day. This is crucial in providing those that are in need with the necessary information to initiate appropriate treatment.

  • Long Beach also partners with private provider networks to test and process lab results. Since the onset of COVID-19 approximately two weeks ago, 1,300 tests have been performed. Exact amounts are not known as only positive test results are required to be reported.

In adherence with strict national guidelines, Long Beach health officials recommend not testing patients who are only mildly symptomatic or who are otherwise able to isolate at home to prevent transmission to others. Anyone feeling ill should stay home and self-isolate until three conditions are met - 1) they have had no fever AND have not taken fever medicine for at least 72 hours, 2) other symptoms (such as cough, and shortness of breath) have improved, and 3) at least 7 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, before going out into public areas.

More tests are needed and we are awaiting tests from the federal government. In the meantime, the public is urged to obey the current health order and practice physical distancing by only leaving home for essential activities. When leaving home, keep at least six feet distance between yourself and others. While you're home:

  • Practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;

  • Regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces;

  • If you are experiencing a medical emergency, such as difficulty breathing, call 9-1-1.

I realize things are changing rapidly and new information and updates are coming out all the time. But, I want to assure you that my office and my team are at your service and will continue to provide any and all assistance we can from both our office at City Hall as well as our Field Office at 340 Nieto Avenue. Please reach out to our office any time as our focus will continue to be providing effective information and responsive assistance for any request.

If you have questions please continue to feel free to contact my office at (562) 570-6300 or by email at My whole staff is ready to help residents however they can during these difficult times.


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