DOH Issues Guidance for COVID-19 Testing

March 6, 2020

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) has released the attached guidance for the testing of individuals for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

In response, I issued the following public statement:

GNYHA strongly supports the New York State Department of Health’s (DOH) interim guidance for testing individuals for coronavirus (COVID-19). The sensible standards that must be met before an individual can be tested for COVID-19 will help ensure that hospitals and public health departments are only testing and caring for those who need it most—such as the seriously ill who have not tested positive for other viruses.

DOH’s standards are especially important for as long as testing capacity remains limited. Currently, only public health labs can test. Some hospital laboratories (including several GNYHA members) and some commercial laboratories anticipate having testing capabilities soon.

Once testing capacity increases, GNYHA believes testing must continue to be used judiciously to 1) inform clinical care for seriously ill individuals and 2) contribute to the many sources of information public health agencies use to understand the outbreak and improve their strategies.

GNYHA supports the following public health guidance: Individuals experiencing mild symptoms such as cough and low fever—whether from the seasonal flu, COVID-19, or a cold—should stay home and rest. They will likely recover on their own, but should call their doctor if symptoms persist or worsen. These individuals will likely not require COVID-19 testing.

Testing individuals with mild or moderate symptoms will only burden our health care delivery system. If emergency departments become overrun with the “worried well” and mildly ill, the ability of hospitals to meet the needs of the seriously ill—because of COVID-19 or otherwise—will be severely compromised.

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