Maximize testing for 2019-nCoV (coronavirus) in Virginia

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It is widely accepted that wide-spread testing for 2019-nCov, the virus causing covid-19, must be a critical component of an informed and targeted response to the pandemic.  

Currently only a small number of symptomatic individuals are tested. More extensive testing would provide a much clearer picture of the state of the pandemic and help keep us safe. For example:

i) Testing a random sample would provide a much needed estimate of the number of infected Virginians; this data in turn is critical for models which predict how the pandemic develops over time.     

ii) Targeted testing, for example the workforce in hubs such as large supermarkets (Wegmans, Costco, etc) and other crowded work spaces, is especially critical since social distancing is challenging in these environments. This would allow silent carriers to be identified and isolated, to the benefit of the health of the workforce and everyone else.  

Unfortunately, Virginia is behind other states in testing for 2019-nCov. Our neighbors (West Virginia and Maryland and North Carolina) all have administered more tests per capita; Massachusetts five times as many (https://covidtracking.com/data/

It is often stated that limited testing capacity needs to be reserved for hospitals. However, Virginia has excess capacity because the private sector has stepped up to increase 2019-nCov testing capacity. For example, Aperiomics, a testing company in Sterling, has teamed up with volunteers from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to greatly increase the capacity of testing, with short turn-around times (e.g. https://www.loudountimes.com/news/sterling-based-aperiomics-howard-hughes-researchers-partner-to-increase-covid-19-testing/article_b48835e8-75c0-11ea-8b6b-db5503e53632.html However, Aperiomics is running at less than 10% capacity because the samples (nasal swabs) are simply not coming in. This is because the demand is kept artificially low by Virginia’s guidelines. 

We urge you to modify guidelines so that testing for 2019-nCov in the Virginia population is maximized and matched to the available capacity.