San Miguel County Department of Public Health and Environment began an initial first phase of testing today for emergency first responders and family members in their households. Widespread public testing is targeted to begin early next week. 

The goal is to offer the blood test to everyone in San Miguel County, ONLY. The test is not mandated. 

“Administering two rounds of blood tests to more than 8,000 people across the 1300 square miles of our county takes a massive amount logistical planning,” Dr. Diana Koelliker, County Deputy Medical Officer said. Dr. Koelliker is coordinating the efforts working with United Biomedical (UBI) and our county medical clinics.

“We know we need to get our first responders and healthcare providers in the county tested, and this way we can work out any kinks we have in our system before we go county-wide to the public,” Dr. Koelliker added.

Individuals who agree to be tested will receive a simple blood draw by a healthcare provider. Tests will then be sent to a lab with results projected to be available within two days. The test will ideally be repeated in 14 days so that public health officials can gauge if the rate of infection is increasing or decreasing in the county.

County Public Health Officials join others who have been frustrated with the extremely limited of access to COVID-19 testing kits. 

"We can’t do our jobs effectively without tools to do them,” County Public Health Director Grace Franklin said.

The entire county has only been able to test 38 patients so far. Thirteen of those patients received negative results for COVID-19; the remaining 25 results have not yet been received.

“The standard testing situation is out of our control. Public Health partnering with a private company gives us more control to get better optics into COVID-19 and help mitigate our losses, including what some are saying could be an incomprehensible amount of loss of life,” Dr. Sharon Grundy, County Medical Officer said.

Several county residents have required critical care hospitalization from suspected but not yet confirmed COVID-19. This week county Emergency Departments also saw several children under the age of 4 years-old with concerning respiratory distress; one required medical air-transport to Denver Children’s Hospital. 

“We were very concerned that we were starting to see children possibly infected with this virus, but as it turns out they tested positive for a different infection that has similar respiratory impact,” explained Dr. Koelliker, who is also Director of Trauma and Emergency Services at the Telluride Medical Center in San Miguel County.

This partnership between San Miguel County and UBI formalized Wednesday is the first in the country to test an entire county with UBI’s COVID0-19 blood test. The testing is being offered free of charge by UBI and c19 and will be administered by the Public Health Department of San Miguel County, with the goal of detecting and containing community spread and providing a more accurate assessment of disease prevalence.

Public Health Director Grace Franklin said testing, in combination with “shelter in place” public health orders are essential.

“We have an opportunity to arrest the rapid spread of this virus with swift action,” she said. “Short term inconveniences will give us the best chances to get back to living our lives with a new normal.”

The UBI c19 ELISA blood test shows a person’s immunity for COVID-19, it does not check for the virus. It will help public health officials learn who may be protected against the virus, and those who may still be at risk. 

For more information and to sign up for Coronavirus email alerts, go to sanmiguelcountyco.gov/coronavirus.