DANVILLE — Geisinger's president and chief executive officer said testing people without COVID-19 symptoms would not provide enough data and would use up supplies that may be needed if there is an uptick in cases.
Dr. Jaewon Ryu made those comments to the Geisinger Authority during its monthly meeting on Wednesday. The health system CEO attended the meeting to provide an update to the county-appointed board, which oversees bond financing of Geisinger projects throughout its system.
Ryu said Geisinger has conducted about 70,000 COVID-19 tests and admitted close to 900 COVID patients throughout its health system. More than 150 patients have died as a result of COVID across the health system that covers Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania.
Authority Chairwoman Sue Kauwell asked Ryu why Geisinger does not test people who don't have COVID symptoms, even if they feel they have been exposed to the virus.
He said, "It doesn't really give us enough information to act upon."
He said it's also a matter of supplies.
He said if there is an uptick in cases, "Supplies could dry up just like that."
Even if testing someone with no symptoms turned up a positive, which could be useful in contact tracing, "Capacity is still the issue," the CEO said.
"You can't test willy-nilly," Ryu added.
He told the authority that a few weeks ago, the criteria was loosened up to test nursing home residents and patients coming in for surgery.
He emphasized, though, face masks and social distancing were the best ways to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Ryu also reported Geisinger is fully back performing non-urgent procedures following the COVID crisis, which had a significant financial impact on everybody.
He said Geisinger received $190 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding, "a mere fraction of the negative impact to Geisinger."
Geisinger is conducting health screenings at all entrances and will continue to do so, Ryu said.
"It's safer to work at Geisinger on the front line than going to the supermarket," he said. "We've been overly cautious."