California woman’s coronavirus case spurs calls for more rapid testing

Testing for coronavirus
A medical staffer works with test systems for diagnosing coronavirus at a Russian lab this month.
(Associated Press)

The country’s first novel coronavirus case in a patient who neither recently traveled out of the country nor was in contact with someone who did is sparking new calls for fast testing to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Northern California woman was not tested for several days after she was hospitalized because she did not fit CDC criteria, which include both symptoms of the virus and either a recent history of travel to China or close contact with another coronavirus patient.

The case demonstrates the need for more rapid testing of all coronavirus patients, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wrote Thursday in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, President Trump’s pick to coordinate the administration’s coronavirus response.

“I understand the newly diagnosed patient was not tested immediately for coronavirus, despite the request by her attending physicians at the University of California-Davis Medical Center,” Feinstein wrote. “It is unclear whether the delay was caused by overly restrictive CDC testing criteria or whether the CDC was unable to process the diagnostic test faster.”

California is working with federal officials to expand the testing of possible coronavirus patients, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday.


Such an expansion includes both broadening the criteria that a person must meet to be tested for the COVID-19 strain as well as getting more coronavirus test kits sent to California, he said. The state has 200 kits for both diagnostic and surveillance purposes, but federal officials say more will arrive in the coming days, he said.

A total of 33 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in California, and five have since left the state, Newsom said. Of the confirmed cases, 24 were either evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan or returned on repatriation flights from Wuhan, China — the origin of the coronavirus outbreak.

Newsom said more than 8,400 people are being monitored in 49 local jurisdictions.

The state is “doing those protocols and monitoring as it relates to more traditional commercial flights that came in from points of concern and potential points of contact, particularly in Asia,” he said.