Eagle, Garfield, Pitkin counties to implement regional testing strategy for COVID-19
July 9, 2020
Public health departments in Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties are coordinating their regional testing strategies for COVID-19. Testing is a key containment strategy to slow the spread of the disease. Surges in cases nationwide are stressing the testing components supply chain and the capacity at state and commercial labs cannot keep up with the demand, often delaying results by up to eight days. A regional testing strategy will focus resources to decrease disease burden, while supporting the needs of local communities. Health officials are seeking to improve capacity and decrease turn-around times, ideally so that test results are available within 48 hours, maximizing their utility.
Meanwhile, the following testing strategy is being implemented until state and commercial laboratory capacity can achieve consistent turn-around times of 48 hours or fewer.
Testing is recommended for:
– People with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, including fever, cough or shortness of breath
– People with symptoms and who are at greater risk for severe disease, including hospitalization and death (65 years of age or older or who have chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, are immunocompromised, are pregnant, or are otherwise considered at high risk by a licensed healthcare provider)
– People who are hospitalized with symptoms consistent with COVID-19
– Close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case, as defined and recommended by a local public health agency
– People within congregate settings where there may be a broader exposure to COVID-19 as determined by a local public health agency
Testing is not routinely recommended for:
– People who do not have symptoms and no known close contact exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case
– People who are preparing to travel or recently returned from travel that do not have symptoms
– Employees who do not have a known close contact exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case
– People who are worried, but do not have a close contact exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case and do not have symptoms
– People who have been confirmed previously and are being retested for release from isolation.
– If you are currently sick, antibody testing cannot determine if that sickness is COVID-19.
– Antibody tests measure whether a person has ‘antibodies’ from a virus, which only occurs after recovery.
– These tests should not be done until the patient has been without symptoms for at least seven days and does not have a fever.
– These tests indicate if a person previously had COVID-19 and whether or not he or she has the antibodies.
– A positive antibody test does not provide complete assurance at this time that someone will be protected from a future COVID-19 infection, and people should continue to take recommended precautions, such as wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing, getting tested if they are ill and staying home if experiencing symptoms.
– With the exception of specific clinical scenarios, antibody testing is not used to diagnose active COVID-19 disease.
“We cannot test and trace our way out of this pandemic,” said Heath Harmon, Director of Eagle County Public Health and Environment. “We need greater compliance on prevention measures from all people in our communities, regardless of whether they are locals or visitors.”
“We all wish this pandemic would end. We all would like to go back to our normal ways of living life,” said Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long. “The good news is that we can do more of that if we all commit to taking a few simple steps.
“The answer to keeping our economy is doable if we have everyone’s buy-in, but only doable if we have everyone’s buy-in. We choose to protect others by wearing a mask, staying six feet apart, washing our hands, and staying home when sick. We can dramatically reduce spreading the virus. Those very basic actions that we are all getting used to are the ticket to getting back to a new normal.”
She concludes with a question, “It comes down to, are we all willing to do our part, now and for a little while longer, so that we can all enjoy the things that we love?”
Public health officials from all three counties stressed the need for community members to work collectively to help slow the transmission of COVID-19 and how individual behaviors have a direct impact on the whole community. Individual precautions can allow businesses to stay open, keep the local workforce employed, help open schools, set the stage for fall and winter activities, protect the most vulnerable residents, and save lives.