Calif. Health and Human Services wants COVID-19 testing at doctor's offices, pharmacies

California Health and Human Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly on Tuesday said that the licensing board plans to reach out to doctors, pharmacists and other partners to perform COVID-19 testing in their offices.

New guidelines will be issued later in the day, he said, that recommend how medical professionals prioritize who to test and when, and to expedite getting results back. 

But who will pay for this testing? Each test costs about $100. 

Ghaly said that he aimed to make sure that reimbursement for testing is covered by individual health plans, especially for essential workers and teachers, to make sure students can return to the classroom.

The concern about the overall cost of testing is "an enormous one," Ghaly said, not just on the state "but on our health plan partners...We are working on the cost of testing on a number of levels."

California has gone a long way in testing, he said, going from 2,000 tests a day to 105,000 a day over a 14-day average.

Dr. Bechera Choucair at Kaiser Permanente, who is part of a newly named state coronavirus task force, said a lot more must be done to curb coronavirus and "constantly refine" approaches.

Testing must be available, affordable, equitable and reliable, he said. 

In terms of contract tracing, Ghaly said that California has hit its goal of hiring 10,000 virus detectives.

However, he added this caveat: "We did not build the current contact tracing program on this level of transmission."

This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.