More COVID-19 Tests Secured
There’s some encouraging news on the Coronavirus front when it comes to testing in Leadville Today.
“We have received more test kits,” stated Dr. Lisa Zwerdlinger, Lake County’s Chief Medical Officer and owner of Rocky Mountain Family Practice in Leadville. Prior to that Lake County had only officially administered a dozen or so tests, resulting in 8 positives reported to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) as of April 17, 2020. But this week, that picture changed.
Testing, Times Two
There are now two Coronavirus tests being administered locally. And there is an amble supply, according to local health officials One is the nasal procedure ($100) to determine if the patient tests positive for COVID-19. Readers may have seen the intrusive swabbing required for this procedure. While the new tests being offered are done by an updated nasal wash technique to collect the necessary mucus for the laboratory, either way, it’s not a pleasant experience, so prepare to soldier-up!
Fortunately, the second antibody test ($50) is not nearly as intrusive. This simple blood draw will determine if a patient has the COVID-19 antibody in their system. The antibody test isn’t checking for the virus itself. Instead, it looks to see whether your immune system — your body’s defense against illness — has responded to the infection.
The patient’s samples are then sent to Quest Diagnostics, the same testing lab that serves one in three adults, and half the physicians and hospitals in the United States. It’s a familiar name locally as well with many Lake County residents receiving their annual 9 Health Fair lab results from the same operation.
“We are now able to perform up to 50,000 diagnostic COVID-19 tests per day or approximately 350,000 tests per week,” stated the testing company which has the most extensive network in the U.S., maintaining more than 6,600 patient access points, including their lab in Denver.
“Our test capacity outpaces demand and we have not experienced a test backlog for about a week,” company executives explained, addressing earlier concerns about a lag in turn-around time for lab results during the early weeks of the pandemic.
Locally these two Coronavirus tests are available through RMFP and the Leadville hospital. Patients should be advised that they need to schedule an appointment and that there could be some lab fees associated with the tests. Fortunately, “we’re finding that the tests are covered by most insurance companies, including Medicaid, Medicare, and most all of the primary insurance companies,” explained Zwerdlinger who is also the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer.
For those who don’t have health insurance, the costs are calculated on a sliding scale fee which would make the office visit about $40-45. Patients will be billed by the lab separately and estimated fees for the test are listed in the story above. Readers should understand that these are estimated costs but ultimately if you feel ill, are symptomatic, or simply want to be tested, please do not let the costs be a deterrent. There are options, just ask when you call to make an appointment. 719-486-0500.
While Lake County has been lagging behind in the testing game, through a combined effort, healthcare professionals will be able to get a better understanding of what the community spread looks like locally.
Tracing and Tracking The Positives
The Lake County Public Health Agency is focusing its efforts on tracing and tracking the disease. One of the biggest challenges in containing the deadly virus is how contagious it is. That’s why once the positives have been identified, tracing and tracking the activity of the infected patient is so critical. It’s also a very time-intensive procedure. While some of their resources are directed towards these patients, there are other efforts underway. Here’s how you can help.
The primary purpose of the Community COVID-19 Symptom Tracker at this time is to track potential outbreaks by understanding locations where people may be experiencing increases in symptoms associated with COVID-19. By logging onto their website and recording your information, that data will help CDPHE track COVID-19 symptoms among people who may not be able to or need to get tested for the virus. This could help public health experts and policymakers map and identify potential hotspots not captured by testing. You are not required to provide your name and location in order to report your symptoms, but doing so could help public health contact you if needed.
With whom will they share your data? Your data will be shared only with those with authorized access, such as your local public health agency. This will help public health and public safety agencies track COVID-19 symptoms in order to make appropriate public health decisions. Additionally, in some cases, public health officials may choose to follow up with certain individuals.
How will they report any data collected through the symptom tracker? Any COVID-19 data publicly reported will be anonymized and reported in aggregate. That means your name and any other information that would make you identifiable will not be publicly disclosed. Any identifying COVID-19 data you report will only be potentially shared with local public health and public safety agencies to aid in their response.
Overall the Lake County medical community has re-established its footing with a new plan including testing, tracing, and treating COVID-19 and its impact on the Leadville and Twin Lakes community. And that’s good news, because the social distancing efforts are presently yielding positive results. Community spread of the disease has been managed by good choices and best practices. Please continue to be thoughtful and respectful of your friends and neighbors if you live in Leadville (and Twin Lakes!) Today.
It’s School Daze from Home
One item that was able to be confirmed both locally and statewide was that school’s out for summer! Well, not exactly but Colorado Governor Jared Polis made it clear in a press conference held on Monday, April 20 that “K-12 school districts and postsecondary institutions will continue to suspend normal in-person instruction until the end of the school year.”
For students attending the Lake County School District, that mandate was confirmed by school officials with the following notice (in part) from their website: “In order to support health and safety all end of year events and celebrations have been cancelled with one exception, high school graduation. The high school is working with stakeholders, including students, parents, staff and the County Health Department to design a modified graduation celebration that meets physical distancing protocols and honors our seniors. More information will be shared once plans are finalized.”
Unfortunately, it looks like a virtual graduation, which the district has been broadcasting in recent years. Yet still, it’s not the same as being there with a congratulatory hug! So it’s a hang in there to the Class of 2020, a keep up the good works for all the distance learning educators and a solid hip, hip, hooray to all the homeschooling moms and dads. How’s it going in your quarantine classroom? Let us know at email@example.com.
Ultimately, everyone living in Leadville Today will be tested over the weeks and months to come. Whether your results come back from the laboratory or an online classroom, here’s hoping that each and every resident of Lake County passes with flying colors. Remember: Stay At Home, Save a Life.