A provider of coronavirus tests is increasing D.C.’s supply after previously decreasing them by one-fifth per week. But before heading out to get a test at one of the District’s public testing sites, the head of the department of public works wants residents to check with their doctors about other places to get a test.
Acting Head of Public Works Christopher Geldart, who is running D.C.’s COVID-19 response for Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office, told WTOP that the District always had more than 8,000 tests a week. He said that was the case even when LabCorp, its COVID-19 test provider, decreased the supply it sent from 10,000 to 8,000 tests per week last month, when it said it was experiencing supply chain issues.
In a statement, a LabCorp spokesperson said the company has been “working with D.C. officials throughout the pandemic in addressing the quantities of COVID-19 tests based on requests, and we will continue to do so.”
The company also said that it has significant additional capacity if needed and has the capacity to perform 200,000 molecular tests per day.
Severe weather and flooding last week led several collection sites to close, potentially decreasing the number of tests it filled last week.
NBC Washington reported that dozens were turned away from a testing location on F Street Monday after a cutoff of 300 tests.
Geldart said that based on statistics, D.C. typically sends some 300 or 400 tests to large sites, such as the site at Judiciary Square. And in the last few weeks, he said the city sent 300 to large sites and 250 to 300 to fire stations.
“Some days we were good; some days we would have a line that had 400 people in it, and we would have to meter the line at 300, and say, ‘For this site, this is the end of the line today. Tomorrow, we’re here again with another 300 or so … But at the same time, there are all these other sites in the city that you could go to,'” Geldart said.
LabCorp will once again send 10,000 tests or close it, but there could be certain weeks where the supply may be below that number, Geldart said.
However, 8,000 is the minimum number Geldart said D.C. needs per week, and “We can’t get below that.”
Geldart said that for those with insurance and a primary care provider, “That’s where you should get your test.”
He said ideally, “We want the tests the city provides to go to those who really need the test.”
The issue with the national supply chain is one thing, but the city has also noticed a trend with regard to those getting tested.
Geldart said there have been instances in which people are getting a test at the D.C. sites who want a test because they are going on a weeklong vacation with friends.
“Our public testing sites are there for those that need a test,” Geldart said. They may need to get a test because they’re experiencing symptoms, were exposed to someone with COVID-19 or need one for work.
But for those who want a test for nonessential needs or activities, Geldart urges people to call their doctors.
“We want people to get tested but at the right place,” he said.
WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.
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