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By Lillian Boyd and Shawn Raymundo

The Orange County Health Care Agency last week launched its COVID-19 Testing Network, expanding testing for the novel coronavirus across the county for those exhibiting symptoms of the virus but are unable to receive testing through a health care provider.

“We have partnered with an initial set of community health centers who are performing FDA-approved PCR testing, the most reliable testing available to detect current infection,” Dr. Nichole Quick, the county health officer, said in an April 21 press release. “The OC Health Care Agency will continue to work diligently to expand this network by bringing more locations online in the days and weeks to come.”

The PCR test identifies if someone is currently infected from a sample taken with a swab. It is not a blood test, nor does it test for antibodies.

Residents with symptoms of COVID-19, which generally include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, should first contact their medical provider to get guidance on testing and care, according to the press release.

Individuals who are unable to be tested by their provider may schedule an appointment at any Network test site to receive a medical screening and test.

Initial locations include AltaMed Medical Group, Anaheim; AltaMed Medical Group, Santa Ana/Bristol; Nhan Hoa Comprehensive Health Care Clinic, Garden Grove; and UCI Health, multiple locations.

According to the county health office’s latest data on Sunday, April 26, more than 25,550 people have been tested for the virus. The county has a population of roughly 3.22 million residents.

“Because of continued challenges of obtaining testing supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care providers, testing may be restricted at times to high-priority groups as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” Quick said in the release. “Residents must make an appointment for testing to assure eligibility and availability of testing.”

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