California Calls Out National Guard To Increase Covid Testing Amid Record-Breaking Surge

California Governor Gavin Newsom today announced he has activated the California National Guard to support local communities with additional testing facilities and capacity amid the surge in Covid cases driven by the Omicron variant.

The state’s National Guard plan will deploy over 200 Cal Guard members across 50 Optum Serve sites around California, providing interim clinical staff while permanent staff are hired, adding capacity for walk-ins, assisting with crowd control and back-filling for staff absences – all in an effort to conduct more tests. Additional members of the Guard will be deployed next week in similar capacities, according to the governor’s office.

Los Angeles is experiencing not just a shortage of rapid tests, but also a scarcity of appointments for the more reliable PCR tests. And with LAUSD and other schools starting back up next week, the region is wise to flood the zone in hope of catching outbreaks at their outset.

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While the state today recorded the highest number of tests administered ever, the 7-day test positivity rate has continued to soar. Test positivity generally declines with more testing. An increase in positivity along with testing generally indicates the full spread of infection is not being captured.

The state’s 7-day average test positivity rate is up 3.6% in the past week to an all time high of 21.7% today. That’s 60-plus percent higher than the peak of last winter’s surge. It means one in every five people tested in the state are positive. It also comes on a day when the state registered a massive 528,039 tests.

“California has led the country’s fight against Covid-19, implementing first-in-the-nation public health measures that have helped save tens of thousands of lives,” said Newsom. “We continue to support communities in their response to COVID by bolstering testing capacity.”

This new action will add to the existing 6,000 testing sites that have been set up across the state and the recent demand-based expansion of hours at state-operated sites.

The announcement comes as Omicron continues to spread rapidly, accounting for at least 80% of Covid cases in the region.

California is not the first state to call up its guard this year to fight Covid. Arkansas, Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Georgia have all done the same. The difference is that most of those deployments have been to bolster hospital capacity. California is calling in the cavalry before its medical infrastructure is overwhelmed. According to the state’s most recent ensemble forecast, however, it may need help in its hospitals come February, as Covid-related admissions there are expected to surpass the peak of last winter’s onslaught.

Newsom recently implemented a series of measures to fight the surge in cases, including vaccine and masking measures requiring that workers in health care settings be fully vaccinated, announcing plans to add the Covid-19 vaccine to the list of vaccinations required to attend school in-person when fully approved, requiring masking in schools, implementing a standard that all school staff and all state workers either show proof of full vaccination or be tested and recommending a test at the end of isolation or quarantine for exposed residents.

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