Clark County saw a significant rise in pending COVID-19 tests Monday morning, jumping from four to 18 since Sunday night.
The testing numbers were reported on Clark County Public Health’s website shortly before 11 a.m. Public Health also reported that one more test returned negative. There is one confirmed case, five negative tests and 18 pending tests, according to Public Health.
Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick said people shouldn’t read too much into the jump in pending tests — it’s not necessarily a good or bad thing.
“It doesn’t mean that we have more novel coronavirus in the community, but it might mean that more and more providers are doing testing,” Melnick said.
More testing could lead to an increase in confirmed cases, but that doesn’t mean the virus is widespread in the county, Melnick said. He compared it to putting more state troopers on the interstate: It could net more speeding tickets but doesn’t mean more people are speeding.
The United States’ initial response to the outbreak has received criticism, because at first the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent states faulty testing kits for COVID-19. After that snafu, the CDC then asked states to send specimens to the CDC headquarters in Georgia for testing, which could create five-day delays.
In the last week, Washington has worked to increase its testing capacity. The state’s public health laboratory in Shoreline only has the capacity to administer 100 tests per day; but late last week, the University of Washington virology laboratory came online for COVID-19 testing. That lab has the capacity to administer more than 1,000 tests per day.
The state has prioritized testing for a nursing home in Kirkland that is experiencing a large outbreak, which has led to delays with Clark County’s results.
Melnick said he thinks the increase in pending tests will be helpful in some ways. Testing can aid the outbreak response, because it can help unearth valuable data about how severe COVID-19 is and what populations it harms the most.
“I think it’s good there’s more testing out there,” Melnick said. “It’ll help us characterize the spectrum of disease in the community.”
To Melnick’s point, the Washington Department of Health released new data Monday that it’s accrued through testing. In total, Washington has had 1,311 tests, 162 of which returned positive. As of March 1, the state had tested 99 samples from 56 people, according to Department of Health spokeswoman Danielle Koenig.
Of the 1,311 tests, 21 percent were administered to people in their 60s, and 70 percent of tests were administered to people 50 and older. Five percent of people tested were in their 20s, and only 2 percent of tests were administered to people 19 and younger.
The state also explained in a news release why it isn’t sharing the total number of pending tests. The Department of Health said pending tests were easier to track when testing was centralized at the CDC, but because that isn’t the case anymore, staff has shifted from tracking pending cases to “collecting the data most critical to the public health response.”
“Those public health resources will be redirected to case investigation and management,” the agency said in the news release.