Testing finally became more available early this week with testing now available through LabCorp  and Quest Diagnostics, but a new problem has arisen and testing continues to be a big barrier to an effective response.

Many doctors and hospitals are unable to get their hands on the actual COVID-19 testing kits (swabs and transport medium). So even though commercial testing is available, if clinicians don’t have the swabs and transport media to get the specimens to the lab then they can’t get the testing done. Some hospitals, clinics and clinicians do still have swabs and transport media- but many don’t.

Last week the ADHS offered the following advice and resources:

  1. “Fisher Scientific has E-Swab by Copan (Catalogue # 481C and 482C) and Opti-Swab by Puritan (Catalogue # LA-117), available but they are on a 2-week backorder. These are Aimes-based kits instead of VTM, but the FDA medical device website indicates that these can be used for COVID testing.  https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/emergency-situations-medical-devices/faqs-diagnostic-testing-sars-cov-2

  2. “You can also reach out directly to the FDA hotline (1-888-INFO-FDA) 24 hours a day for labs to call regarding difficulties obtaining supplies for collecting patient specimens for COVID-19 testing, including swabs and transport medium.”

Because of the swab supply chain issues, testing is basically not available in the outpatient setting right now. Often, testing isn’t necessary for individual treatment- but it certainly helps public health monitor the disease, give folks definitive info about their need to isolate, determine how effective our social distancing interventions are working and help guide future interventions.

Not all is lost, because of the lack of testing because public health has other tools like ILI surveillance, mathematical modeling and hospital admissions and capacity data that helps.

Having a negative test can relieve anxiety but the best thing to relieve anxiety will be to reduce the spread of disease. Public health asks everyone to do the following to reduce the spread of disease and to reduce anxiety:

  • Stay home and away from others when you have even the slightest cold symptom.  Don’t expose anyone else until 72 hours after your symptoms are gone.

  • Most people recover at home with rest and fluids. If you are over 60 or have chronic medical conditions, call your healthcare provider and get guidance. Only go to the emergency room if you are experiencing severe symptoms of COVID-19 like trouble breathing, trouble staying awake, or fever that won’t go away. 

  • Avoid groups > 10 people and reach out to older family, friends and neighbors to make sure they have what they need and they are healthy.

  • Please, please wash your hands and don’t touch your face.

Hopefully I can report something more encouraging next week on the testing front.