Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave more details this week on the conditions regions need to meet to begin a phased reopening from his executive order. While the situation varies from region to region, one consistent across Upstate is there's not enough testing yet.
"We need to know how widespread the virus is in our community and we need to know that as accurately as possible," University at Buffalo Institute for Healthcare Informatics Executive Director Dr. Peter Winkelstein said.
New York state is requiring regions have a capacity to conduct 30 tests for every thousand residents per month as one of the conditions to begin reopening. To this point there have been a limited amount of tests so Winkelstein said regions had been concentrating on testing people most at risk, like health care, first responders and essential employees.
"Now it's time to be testing much more widely in the community so that we have a much better understanding of what's going on," he said.
UB Pathologists President John Tomaszewski said access to test kits is increasing and the goal is to keep track of the COVID-19 infection rate.
"We need to be able to trace those contacts as quickly as possible and that means we need to test them as quickly as possible," he said.
The state is currently working to build a contact tracing army and is also requiring each region have at least 30 tracers per 100,000 people.
"You can have lots of testing," Winkelstein said. "If you don't have enough contact tracers, you're not there yet, and you can have an army of contact tracers but if you're not doing any testing, they don't have anything to do. You've got to have both of those things."
The experts said as the state looks to ramp up testing for the general public, anybody can reach out to their health care provider to see if they're eligible for a test. Ultimately, the doctors will make a decision based on symptoms and circumstance.
"With all tests, you apply the tests to people where you have a clinical suspicion that's significant," Tomaszewski said.
Regardless, they expect there will be a lot more testing in the coming weeks. Winkelstein said there are a lot of signs, for instance, the Western New York region is headed in the right direction if people continue to take precautions like social distancing and wearing masks.
"I have some optimism that we will be able to meet these criteria but I could not tell you when. I cannot see that far in the future," he said.