SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — There is a growing concern that fewer and fewer people are getting tested for the coronavirus as more vaccines are distributed.
California health officials say 60% fewer tests are being taken now versus at the peak of the surge in December and January.
The disparity was not as great in Sacramento, with 34% fewer tests given last week than during the peak.
In Yolo County, vaccinations have ramped up and the County Health Department stopped testing altogether last week.
“With 10%, 15% utilization rate, it just didn’t make sense to continue doing that and using county resources and time,” said Yolo County spokeswoman Jenny Tan.
The decision was made knowing that other agencies like Healthy Davis Together are still providing testing.
The value of testing goes beyond letting people know if they are infected and if they can spread COVID-19 to others. The danger is that the virus is still mutating and creating variants that are not being slowed by vaccines.
“Without testing, we’ll have no idea whether they are hitting our communities and it may in fact also increase the risk of bad outcomes,” said Dr. Brad Pollock, the associate dean for Public Health Sciences at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine.
At this point, it’s difficult to know how long a vaccinated person remains protected. Five in one hundred people who are vaccinated may still get infected.
“That’s also the equivalent of one out of 20 people. So we need to be able to find those folks, but we are concerned about that,” Dr. Pollock said. “So that’s why we have to remain vigilant and continue to test.”
Testing data is used to guide health policy, identify new outbreaks and where they occur, and guides vaccine developers in designing more effective vaccines for variants.
“So we definitely want people to still get tested and then when they are eligible to get vaccinated, we want to make we are doing both to keep the spread low,” Tan told FOX40.
For now, counties continue to advise testing for workers who come in contact with the public, children who are going back to school in person and people who have come within 6 feet of unprotected non-family members.
Sacramento County still has a dozen testing sites that are taking same-day appointments. COVID-19 testing continues to be free at virtually every location, whether you have insurance or not.