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In another blow to a region crippled by a surge in omicron variant cases, the county’s partner in the program, Temple City-based biotech company Fulgent Genetics, said it would not accept new applications for PCR test kits until Jan. 12, citing delays. in processing it. The delay comes after holiday season travel has spiked the demand for tests, leading to shortages and creating long waiting times at testing centers.

The sudden demand slowed the labs’ ability to process PCR tests from Californians within two days, when data is most useful for individuals and public health experts to slow the spread of the virus. According to state data, the number of PCR tests in a single day between December 19 and 25 was 78% – 7% less than the previous week.

“There is a limit to testing for people who need it, who may be at risk of complications or have symptoms,” Jeff Klausner, an infectious disease expert and member of the state’s coronavirus testing team, told dot.LA. ‘Unfortunately, the’well worriedIt consumes a lot of testing resources.

Klausner’s sense — that PCR tests should be tailored to groups at risk and those showing symptoms — points to a gradual change in public health messaging about the pandemic. Officials who were once very cautious, encouraging people to stay home and get tested more frequently, have since shortened quarantine guidelines while still urging people to wear masks and get vaccinated.

The development in letters comes despite California expanding its testing infrastructure and introducing more than 100 commercial, medical, and state-run laboratories to process hundreds of thousands of PCR swabs daily. Among Los Angeles County residents age 12 and older, 85% received at least one dose COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, face coverings remain required in most public places.

Rely on rapid tests

The testing shortage in the state comes as the Biden administration ramps up its plan to make it happen Send 500 million rapid home tests for free for US residents early this month, with the goal of easing the burden on PCR testing facilities.

But unreliable rapid tests may pose their own problems amid the emergence of the omicron variant. Although scientists have identified nearly a dozen variants of COVID, omicron is particularly notable in that it has at least 32 mutations and, while not fatal, is more transmissible.

“[The virus] That’s what the virus wants to “get more infectious because that’s what the virus wants,” said Rita Burke, assistant professor of clinical preventive medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. “Once he infects as many people as he can, he doesn’t want to kill them because then he stops his own cycle.”

Rapid tests work by taking a sequence of the virus and matching it to the sequence found in a saliva sample or nasal swab. Important mutations in the omicron variant make it It is difficult for these rapid tests to test for the virus In the early days of infection.

“When the variable appears, if people are using tests designed for a different variable, then [the tests] “It won’t be able to detect it,” said Eleazar Eskin, a computer scientist and geneticist at UCLA who helped develop the SwabSeq COVID-19 test. “But it’s only a short-term problem, because newer versions of any test will take that into account.”

Klausner, a member of the state’s coronavirus testing task force, said it’s time to abandon overly cautious messaging and save PCR tests for high-risk groups, people who interact with them, and those who show symptoms. Public health strategies have traditionally relied on identifying groups at risk and creating targeted interventions.

“It is important when there is a new context, such as a new virus or when there are a lot of people who are immune, that we change the strategy,” he said. “To do the same strategy over and over and expect new results, that’s a sign of insanity.”

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