OHA revises testing guidelines to prioritize underserved populations and all frontline workers, allows testing for people without symptoms

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) on Monday night revised guidelines for COVID-19 testing to prioritize impacted populations and all frontline workers. The guidelines continue to allow healthcare providers to make clinical decisions about their patients.

In addition, if supplies allow, asymptomatic people within the congregate care or group living systems can be considered for testing.

The newly revised guidelines urge clinicians to potentially increase testing for Oregonians who may be at particular risk for contracting COVID-19. These groups include:

  • those living or working in congregate care or group living facilities;
  • underserved and marginalized populations, including racial and ethnic minority groups;
  • essential frontline workers, including those providing healthcare services and those serving the public, such as grocery store workers.

The new clinical guidelines for testing can be found here.

“As we have done numerous times during the COVID-19 epidemic, we’ve revised our testing guidelines in order to fit the changing shape of the disease outbreak, and to ensure we’re best responding to the current situation,” said Dean Sidelinger, MD, state epidemiologist.

“By focusing clinicians’ attention on testing certain groups – including those most at risk for contracting severe forms of COVID-19 – we are making sure people who need to be tested are getting tested and getting the information and treatment they need to manage COVID-19,” Sidelinger said. “Similarly, increased testing in specific areas will help OHA, other state authorities and partners to understand and manage the epidemic.”

OHA’s testing guidelines were developed with input from local public health authorities, epidemiologists and physicians, taking into account the latest understanding of testing supplies and availability in Oregon. The guidelines also are responsive to the latest data analysis showing the contours of the outbreak in Oregon.

Much of the disease outbreak data are available via OHA’s website – including a weekly data report, daily updates and ongoing epidemic modeling: https://govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-COVID-19. These data show the trends for the outbreak and help to inform statewide and local responses, including the revised guidelines.

“Our system for disease testing and response continues to rest on the judgement of healthcare providers, who are the best equipped to make clinical decisions based on the signs and symptoms of the people who they evaluate,” Sidelinger said. “Like many other states, we are using clinical evidence and disease data in our response to this pandemic. We will continue to move in this fashion, ensuring that we build on our good work in controlling the spread of COVID-19 working together as a state.”