There are new developments and advancements for COVID-19 testing in Lake County, resulting in a shorter turnaround time for test results. These new processes and procedures for faster testing came about with new equipment purchases by St. Vincent Health (SVH) and Rocky Mountain Family Practice (RMFP). In addition, rapid testing kits have been distributed to SVH and RMFP by Colorado Public Health and Department of Environment (CDPHE) via Lake County Public Health Agency (LCPHA).
The quick turnaround of rapid tests may help employers maintain functional staffing levels and, in some instances, cut down on length of days a person spends in quarantine. The criteria for testing remain: the tests are administered to those who are ill or exhibiting symptoms or have had a known exposure to COVID-19. Tests are administered at the order of a qualified healthcare provider.
Utilizing federal CARES Act funds, uninsured or under-insured people can receive the PCR test or Antigen test at no cost at SVH and RMFP. (Continued federal funding for these tests into 2021 is unclear.) Most health insurance covers testing one hundred percent.
These tests are available in Lake County, and are listed in order of greatest accuracy:
PCR test: PCR testing, utilizing a nasopharyngeal swab, is considered the “gold standard” in SARS-CoV-2 detection. This test detects RNA (or genetic material) that is specific to the virus and it can detect the virus within days of infection, even in people who do not display symptoms. Locally, the test can be done at St. Vincent Medical Clinic (SVH) or Rocky Mountain Family Practice (RMFP) at a provider’s discretion, then sent to an outside lab for results. The results are returned in as little as two days.
Molecular test: The molecular test has the same reliability as the PCR test and detects specific viral genetic material. This same-day test is now available at SVH and RMFP. The test utilizes nasopharyngeal swabs, and because it doesn’t need to be sent to an outside lab, the testing process produces results in under an hour. SVH has purchased a BioFire Analyzer, and RMFP has purchased an Abbott ID NOW device to make molecular testing an option. Testing in Leadville is by provider discretion at St. Vincent Medical Clinic and Rocky Mountain Family Practice. Some circumstances may warrant a send-out PCR test in place of a BioFire or Abbott ID NOW test.
Abbott BinaxNow Rapid test, Antigen test: This antigen test looks for the specific proteins of the COVID-19 virus. This rapid test has been distributed by LCPHA to RMFP and SVH. Antigen tests provide results in minutes but have a higher probability of missing an active infection. If an antigen test shows a negative result indicating that you do not have an active coronavirus infection, in some cases your healthcare provider may order a PCR test to confirm the result.
Antibody testing: Antibody testing looks for evidence of infection that is at least two weeks old, by looking for your body’s response to the virus using a blood test. It is not useful when looking for new infections. Antibodies will revert to negative in three to six months after infection, and a person with antibodies should still practice precautions: handwashing, mask wearing and social distancing. Anyone can directly request an antibody test at SVH or RMFP.
Anyone with symptoms or known exposure to COVID-19 should contact their physician or primary care provider. The decision for COVID-19 testing, and the type of test used, is made at the discretion of the healthcare provider and is based on symptoms, a patient’s risk and exposure to the virus.