San Miguel County Public Health officials, working with dozens of emergency operations personnel, will begin the new county-wide COVID-19 blood test initiative this week, according to a news release.
A pre-selected pilot group will be tested Wednesday to help refine the operation before it is launched to the public, expected to be a few days later in the East End of the county at the Telluride Intermediate School Gymnasium. The West End of the county is working on confirming the best location.
“As always, safety is priority one. This is an unprecedented operation, requiring a lot of logistics and planning.” Co-Incident Commander Sheriff Bill Masters said. “We want to get it dialed-in before we have hundreds of people going through.”
Other issues such as weather will be factored into timing the opening of the two testing sites.
A multi-agency effort of more than 60 people, including many volunteers, will be running the operation at the East End county location at the Telluride Intermediate School.
More information will be distributed about how to get tested when it becomes available.
“We realize that people are anxious to get tested and some even frustrated with perceived delays,” Co-Incident Commander TFPD District Chief John Bennett said. “Let me assure you we are working diligently, practically around the clock, to get this initiative underway.”
Public health officials and physicians say they do not need to do a blood test on young children who are 8 years old or younger.
“It can be a traumatizing experience for young children to get their blood drawn, and in this case it’s not necessary,” Dr. Diana Koelliker, county deputy medical officer said. “Children share their common exposures with their parents, so their immunity should mirror their parents’ immunity.”
It is also not necessary for those who are homebound.
“We do not need high-risk people who are already sheltering in place to come out or have people come into their home to be tested,” Grace Franklin, county public health director said.
The COVID-19 tests typically being used around the country uses nasal and oral swabs. In a lab, a method called PCR looks for “pieces” or evidence of COVID-19. The results indicate whether or not the person has the virus, whether symptoms are present or not. A positive result also means the individual is contagious and has the potential to spread COVID-19.
These are the tests that are in limited supply. The county collectively has performed 47 of these with one positive result, 20 negative and 26 still pending. An additional 100 of these COVID-19 tests were performed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment March 17, and those test results are expected from the state this week.
This new c19 blood testing is different as it looks for COVID-19 antibodies.
If the results of the test come back positive, it is evidence of a person’s current or recent infection. In other words, a person’s immune system is fighting off the virus or has already fought it off. A positive result does not differentiate between a past or current infection. Positive antibody tests are treated as presumptive active infection and health officials will recommend self-isolation for 14 days.
Negative results of the first test indicate that a person could still be in the window of recently contracting COVID-19 or has not yet had exposure to it, and therefore remains susceptible to becoming infected. This test is ideally repeated after 14 days to detect any changes in immune response.
“Having both tests done is ideal as it will help us guide our county recommendations and orders going forward,” Franklin said.
County medical officer Dr. Sharon Grundy said it’s important to remember that this testing does not change current orders and guidelines.
“Ultimately, it’s back to the basics of doing our part, sheltering in place and maintaining social distancing, which are more critical to our community’s health than this blood test,” she said.
Testing is voluntary and will be done twice, about 14 days apart.
Testing is only being offered to San Miguel County residents, including second homeowners. Be prepared to show proof of (full or part-time) residency.
Do not come from other counties and expect to be tested. You will be turned away.
Please do not call the medical center or dispatch or try to arrange appointments.
More details to come as they become available.
For more information and to sign up for Coronavirus email alerts, go to sanmiguelcountyco.gov/590/coronavirus.