Spike of coronavirus cases among younger people creates testing dilemma in La.

State debating whether to prioritize COVID-19 testing for young people who may not be showing symptoms

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - As young Louisianans continue to drive the spike of COVID-19 cases, state health leaders are faced with a dilemma: prioritize testing for apparently-healthy people who might be silent carriers, or for sick people who need to seek treatment.

Roughly 20% of the Louisianans who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 are between ages 18 and 29. Though health experts are not certain, it appears younger people are more likely to unknowingly spread the virus because they don’t demonstrate severe symptoms as often.

“There’s still not as much testing as we would like, so you still have to have priorities,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said during his Coronavirus briefing Wednesday, July 1. “It’s really hard to not prioritize symptomatic individuals who are more likely to have it and need to know if they have it.”

Edwards says it is becoming more important to test asymptomatic people, which is why the state is ramping up testing in certain regions. Four new sites in Baton Rouge could open as soon as Tuesday, including drive-thrus at LSU and Southern University.

“We like to get people across the age spectrum, and those are two pretty big sites to (get young people),” the Louisiana Department of Health’s Dr. Joseph Kanter said.

LDH has already identified outbreaks connected to 19 different bars across the state, including at Tigerland, a popular student watering hole near LSU’s campus.

“Folks really should be seated at tables, even at bars,” Kanter said. “If you’ve been in a setting where that wasn’t happening and people were within 6 feet of each other, I think you should consider yourself exposed and look for testing options in your region.”

Louisiana is a global leader in testing per capita, but materials are still limited. Long lines are forming at testing sites and the turnaround time for results from certain vendors is “unacceptable,” Kanter said.

The state is relying on the federal government and private testers to provide more kits so the state does not have to choose between healthy or sick people.

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