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Virginia Doctor Says Pediatricians Struggling to Keep Up With COVID Testing Demand

NBC Washington D.C. logo NBC Washington D.C. 9/15/2021 Julie Carey
a small child sitting on a table: File photo © Provided by NBC Washington D.C.

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A Northern Virginia pediatrician says doctors' offices are struggling to keep up with a surging demand for COVID-19 tests now that children are back in school.

Thirty cars lined up outside Fairfax Pediatric Associates on Lee Highway on Tuesday for COVID testing.

"The dramatic increase in the demand for testing has been incredible. It has been absolutely overwhelming to pediatric practices," said Dr. Sandy Chung, with Fairfax Pediatric Associates.

The office received 60 requests for the day, Chung said, but is only able to fulfill about 30 tests a day. The PM Pediatrics Urgent Care location in Fairfax said it did about 40 COVID tests on Tuesday.

School guidelines require parents of students who attend Fairfax County Public Schools to have their children tested if they notice symptoms or if they getting a call from their school about exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID.

Chung said the extra work of COVID testing comes at a time when there’s already an uptick in illnesses such as RSV, a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. Children's National Hospital in D.C. said Monday it reached full capacity over the weekend as it treated more children with RSV and COVID-19.

"Relying on the health care system, which is already short staffed and already overloaded, to do all the testing that’s required is just not feasible. It's just not feasible," Chung said.

One father of a first grader told News4 he got a call from his daughter's school Tuesday he had to come pick her up after she complained of congestion and laid her her head down on her desk.

"Our usual pediatrician wasn’t able to do it, but some friends of ours had just told us over the weekend about this urgent care pediatrician and they were able to do it," Andrew Brown said.

"It's hard to get a test that, you know, you get results back quickly," he said.

Chung said she believes the health department, medical community and schools need to come together to find a way to make testing more accessible to families and to turn results around quickly so healthy children can get back to school.

The Fairfax County Health Department said it will deploy its mobile lab in the coming weeks to host testing events in locations where infection rates are high or where there are fewer testing locations.

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