Coronavirus testing in the Coachella Valley could soon get a lot faster, thanks to a new initiative by the Desert Healthcare District.
The district is buying 12 to 18 Abbott ID NOW machines, which can produce diagnostic results almost immediately, eliminating the need for swab tests to be sent to out for processing.
"Everything will be on site," said Dr. Conrado Bárzaga, Desert Healthcare District's CEO. "It doesn't need to be taken into a lab; that's why the results are fast and you can get the results in as short as 5 minutes."
The machines will be distributed to health centers around the valley including Desert AIDS Project, Borrego Health and Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo locations.
Right now in the valley, swab test results for active infections take anywhere from a couple of days to a week.
News Channel 3 reporter Jake Ingrassia got tested at the end of June at Centro Medico in Cathedral City, a Borrego Health clinic. The results, which were negative, took nearly two weeks to come back.
Dr. Bárzaga said that renders results, and subsequent contact tracing, practically useless.
"That person may have been at the market, at a family party, God knows where, and the spread has been very difficult to contain," Bárzaga said.
"We saw a huge drop in our amount of patients that were coming in for testing and I suspect that's because a lot of patients were hearing about how long the delays for results were," said Dr. Edgar Bulloch, interim chief medical officer with Borrego Health.
The new machines are aimed at bringing faster results and making testing more effective to stopping the virus's spread.
"Getting those patients that are positive and being able to tell them that day that they need to isolate and the precautions they need to take if they live with people I think is super important," Bulloch said.
A big focus of this project is amping up testing for rural communities in the east valley free of charge, Bárzaga said.
The testing is expected to be available later this month.