Sublette County Rural Health Care District Clinical Director Sharon Rutsch worked with RHCD’s Communication Coordinator Emily Ray to provide an update on COVID-19 testing in the county:
Currently we are doing direct testing, which is a nasal swab for the presence of the COVID-19 virus. We have about 350 collection kits thanks to Public Health and are steadily getting in more each week. Also, the state has relaxed restrictions for testing in their lab so we now can send tests to them for any individual with COVID-19-like symptoms, but people 65 years of age or older, healthcare workers, and those with serious health conditions will be prioritized. Our turnaround time for these tests are about 24- 48 hours. We also have the option to send testing to Quest Diagnostics which is a private lab.
Rapid Tests: This week we have received a Cepheid Gene Xpert testing machine (which was paid for by the county commissioners, so be sure to thank them when you see them). This machine will allow us to complete rapid tests for the COVID-19 virus and we will be able to get results within 45 minutes. We are still waiting on the test media which will allow us to be able to actually do the tests. We are hoping that it will be available in the near future and will announce it publicly once it is received. In the future this machine will also be used to test for flu, strep, MRSA, and several other diseases.
Please keep in mind that the providers still decide who will be tested but they are really looking to do more to get a better idea of how far spread this virus really is. If you feel that you have coronavirus-like symptoms, please call the clinic and talk to a provider.
Anitbody Tests: There is one other test that a lot of people have been asking about and this is the serology test, which is the blood or fingerstick test that people have seen on various media sites. This is where you see people getting their finger sticked through the window of their car and this is testing for the COVID-19 antibodies. The clinic had ordered kits for this testing in March but on April 8th, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) shut down using many of the (blood) serology testing because many of the (approx. 150) manufacturers did not apply for the Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. But many of these kits had already been shipped out, so some are being used inappropriately.
Because of this, these kits have been classified as High Complexity and are for use by hospitals or labs that perform High Complexity testing only. (Our clinic labs are classified as Moderate Complexity.) So the kit we will be getting will not be available for use until the company applies for its EUA and our supplier is not shipping until this is cleared up.
FDA has stated they will prosecute all entities that are advertising, selling or using the kits improperly. And, the FDA representative that was on a recent regulatory call said that one of the rapid kits that is being widely used has been shown to be in error 33% of the time. So we are erring on the side of caution and waiting until this situation with the FDA has been cleared up.