Health

Top Bay Area health officials mandate more coronavirus test data from private labs

The top public health officials from six Bay Area counties and the City of Berkeley issued an order Tuesday requiring all private and university laboratories testing for the coronavirus to turn over more results data as they work to stitch together a more complete picture of the virus’ impact on the region.

The health order — issued by Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, and Berkeley, which has its own health department — requires all labs performing coronavirus tests to report all negative and inconclusive results along with positive ones.

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Most private labs and labs at universities have been reporting only positive cases, providing an incomplete look into how the pandemic is playing out locally. Data about negative and inconclusive tests will help public health officials better understand the overall number of tests being performed, the outcomes of those tests and where the virus appears to be spreading.

“Expanding reporting beyond positive results to include timely reporting of negative and inconclusive results allows local health officials to better understand whether there are areas of the community that are experiencing more intense transmission and project future trends in in the spread of the virus,” San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón, said in a statement.

“By sharing high-quality test result data at scale, state and local health authorities can better track COVID-19, predict its spread and better focus public resources to end this global pandemic,” he said.

There are 22 state labs performing coronavirus tests, according to the California Department of Public Health. It’s not clear how many private or university labs are analyzing tests, but state health officials said more are coming online to help deal with the deluge of tests needed as the virus spreads.

On Sunday, state health officials reported that approximately 26,400 tests had been conducted in California. At least 14,317 results had been received and another 12,100 were pending.

“This new health order will help us get a better sense of the scope of the challenge we’re facing and to develop models and strategies to better protect our public,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement.

“We’ll continue to push ahead on strategies to expand our testing capabilities and take aggressive action with all the available information and tools at our disposal.”

Dominic Fracassa is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: dfracassa@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @dominicfracassa

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