Health officials in New York, California and other hard-hit parts of the country are restricting coronavirus testing to health care workers and the severely ill, saying the battle to contain the virus is lost and the country is moving into a new phase of the pandemic response.
As cases spike sharply in those places, they are bracing for an onslaught and directing scarce resources where they are needed most to save people’s lives. Instead of encouraging broad testing of the public, they’re focused on conserving masks, ventilators and intensive care beds — and on getting still-limited tests to health-care workers and the most vulnerable. The shift is further evidence that rising levels of infection and illness have begun to overwhelm the health care system.
A similar message was hammered Saturday by members of the White House coronavirus task force, who said it was urgent to conserve scarce supplies and offered guidelines about who should get tested. Top priority, they said, should go to those who are hospitalized, along with health-care workers, symptomatic residents of long-term care facilities and people over 65 — especially those with heart and lung disease, which place them at higher risk.
“Not every single person in the U.S. needs to get tested,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “When you go in and get tested, you are consuming personal protective equipment, masks and gowns — those are high priority for the health care workers who are taking care of people who have coronavirus disease.