By Collin Breaux

Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA) and other Orange County representatives are continuing to ask the Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) for more information regarding perceived COVID-19 testing disparities between Orange County and other counties.

In a June 26 letter to OCHCA and the Orange County Board of Supervisors, the representatives said they remain “concerned that our constituents continue to face barriers to testing, particularly in traditionally underserved communities.”

The Orange County Congressional Delegation requested information from the OCHCA regarding the county’s low COVID-19 testing volume in comparison with other counties in May, and received both a briefing and a written response to their inquiries.

Levin, whose district includes San Clemente, told the San Clemente Times the issue came to his attention because he regularly gets testing numbers from Orange County and San Diego County, the latter of which he also serves. Orange County appeared to have less testing than San Diego County.

Testing and contact tracing is needed so reopening can be safely facilitated, Levin said.

“We need a lot more,” Levin said. “I’m very hopeful the county will see the problem for what it is.”

Though the delegation heard claims there was not high demand for tests, a survey of constituents reportedly found that of those who wanted a test, 62.2% had not been given one because they were denied or did not know how to proceed. That survey result prompted the June letter.

“We urge all parties to acknowledge this gap in testing and work to increase testing utilization and improve communication with the public,” the June letter said. “We appreciate the County’s recent efforts to use funding provided by the federal government through the bipartisan CARES Act to launch a community outreach and advertising initiative to increase awareness of free COVID-19 testing options, but we believe that additional steps are necessary to ensure that all residents can conveniently access no-cost testing in Orange County.”

The letter also said requested testing data broken down by labs was not provided.

OCHCA did not have a statement to provide when reached for comment. A representative for the Board of Supervisors did not respond to requests for comment.

A recent news story by the Orange County Register said the county “erroneously inflated its COVID-19 testing numbers for more than a month—logging 30,000 more tests than it should have (reported)—before the error was discovered and fixed” and that the county has counted coronavirus testing in a way “some consider misleading, reporting total tests performed, but not how many individuals were tested (some people are tested multiple times).”

During a press conference on Thursday, July 2, OCHCA Agency Director and acting County Health Officer Clayton Chau said a state reporting system had mistakenly added COVID-19 serology tests as auto-processed tests in April.

Cho said his team had captured the serology test results as part of their COVID-19 test results—“an error that leadership became aware of around June 3.” The removal of serology tests from the total count was formally implemented on June 26.

Some reopening measures have recently been rolled back by state and county officials because of surging cases in the state. Recently, the number of cases has gradually increased in Orange County.

People can register for a COVID-19 test at lhi.care/covidtesting and find information on testing and testing sites at ochealthinfo.com/covidtest.

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