California Health and Human Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly on Tuesday acknowledged the state's struggles with testing and said the goal is to make testing faster, affordable and more widely available.

"It does take all hands on deck to meet this moment and testing is a part of that," Ghaly said.

Ghaly said the state is issuing new guidelines for testing that will help medical professionals prioritize who gets tested and whose results are expedited. He emphasized the need to make testing available to vulnerable populations and to get results to hospitalized patients and seniors in skilled nursing facilities as fast as possible. The new guidelines will be posted Tuesday afternoon.

The state has gone from implementing 2,000 tests a day on average to 105,000, but Ghaly said despite the increase, the state isn't implementing enough for children to safely return to school in fall. Supply issues need to be resolved, turn-around times made faster, and more testing sites set up throughout the state.

To help with the effort, the licensing board will be reaching out to doctors, pharmacists and others to perform COVID-19 tests.

When asked about who would cover the expense of tests, which cost on average about $100 each to administer, Ghaly said the goal is make sure reimbursement is covered, especially for essential workers and under-served populations. The state is working with health care providers to cover the cost for patients.

Ghaly said the state is also "working to see whether the cost can be reduced over time by implementing efficiencies."

The state's contact-tracing program is also facing challenges. "We have hit our goal of 10,000 contact tracers," said Ghaly. "We did not build the contact-tracing program on this level of transmission. We need to bring down transmission rates so our contact-tracing workforce is sufficient to respond to the needs."

Two new co-chairs for the state's coronavirus task force were introduced at the Tuesday press briefing: Center for Infectious Diseases Deputy Director Dr. Gil Chavez and Kaiser Chief Health Officer Dr. Bechara Choucair. Chavez said he has worked on multiple public health challenges in the state including SARS, Ebola and Zika.

"In every one of those public health challenges testing has been at the forefront of our response," Chavez said. "It’s very clear we have to have a robust testing system."

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Amy Graff is the news editor for SFGATE. Email her: [email protected]