Amid high demand, no shows and delayed results, COVID-19 testing to continue through August
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Lake Tahoe Community College will continue to serve as a state-sponsored COVID-19 testing location through August, the only permanent location in El Dorado County.
As the confirmed cases in the county increase, so does the demand for testing.
Residents who have wanted to be tested have found that appointments are booked through July, when funding was originally up for the program. But funding came through and LTCC will continue to host testing through August. Extending the program will be decided on a month-to-month basis.
About two weeks ago, South Lake Tahoe resident Conrad Kaczmar said he started feeling COVID-19 symptoms. Kaczmar was unable to find out if he actually had the virus or not because LTCC testing was booked out for weeks.
In the meantime, he has been isolating at home and unable to work.
“The whole situation is contradictory to stopping the spread,” he said. “This is not a good situation for locals right now.”
Kaczmar said we should have the right to stay safe and know (if we have the virus) so we can protect other people.
Currently at the LTCC site, nasal swab tests are available, antibody tests are not.
Diane Lewis, public information officer for LTCC, recommends people wanting to schedule a test should try to schedule for the first week in August.
While the website reports test results should be available in four to six days, it is taking much longer than expected.
“We know there is a lag between when you take your test and get results,” said Carla Hass, director of communications and outreach for El Dorado County.
Hass said that they have seen delayed results up to nine days. She explained that there is a capacity issue at the labs with specimens being tested.
Another problem with the backlog, is people are not showing up for scheduled appointments.
Logistic Health Incorporated, the agency administering the tests at LTCC, is opening up appointments one week at a time due to several no-shows.
El Dorado County helps determine the location of the sites, and Hass said with substantially greater cases in the Tahoe region there is a greater demand for testing.
“We would like everyone who wants a test to be able to get a test,” she said.
She recommended that anyone who is experiencing symptoms should contact their primary care physician first and they can write an order based on what is being presented.
Delays in testing and results are not unique to Tahoe.
“We are seeing this issue across the state,” Hass said. “We know there have been challenges.”
“Our community is fortunate to have asymptomatic testing available locally,” said Mindi Befu Barton Health Director of Public Relations & Marketing. “Barton Health understands that as demand increases for these tests, there are impacts on regional labs and their ability to process results quickly.”
Befu said that the testing at LTCC is providing data that helps guide the Lake Tahoe region in staying open during the pandemic. However, testing taking longer than expected is a statewide issue that Barton is working in collaboration with public health to advocate for more resources.
“Based on CDC guidelines and test kit availability, Barton Health’s testing has focused on serving symptomatic and high risk populations through a clinical referral process.” she said. “All testing is conducted on a referral-only basis, where clinicians screen patients through Barton’s COVID-19 Health Line or during a medical visit, and determine if the individual meets the criteria.”
Individuals who screen accordingly, are referred to the appropriate Barton testing facility.
Befu said that Barton Health does have a limited capacity for in-house testing and processes tests at nearby laboratories through regional partnerships. The amount of time it takes for a patient to receive their test result varies, based on the utilized lab’s capacity at the time.
Barton is receiving results from outside labs within one to three business days on average.
The Barton COVID-19 health line is 530-600-1999.
On July 14, Gavin Newson issued new priority tiers in testing. Tier 1 is people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms or someone in close contact with a confirmed case. Tier 2 priority is all other individuals with COVID-19 symptoms along with first responders.
Tier 3 is individuals who work with the public including retail, service industry, education, public transportation, and those who work in the agricultural or food manufacturing sector. Tier 4 would be for all individuals that are asymptomatic and would go in effect when testing turnaround would be less than 48 hours.
LTCC’s website states that tests are available to any county resident regardless of their health, access to medical insurance, or immigration status free of charge, with priority going to those with COVID-19 symptoms such as fever and shortness of breath.
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