With the growing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Kentucky, more and more Kentuckians are requesting to be tested for the coronavirus. However, state and local health officials say that a process is set in place to help prevent the waste of test kits and other needed medical supplies.
“There is a process,” Anya Weber with the Kentucky Department of Public Health (KDPH) said. “Testing isn’t available to anyone who wants to get one. It has to be a referral at this point, so a provider would have to recommend that.”
According to its website, the KDPH recommends that if you are ill, but would not have sought care if not for COVID-19, do not seek in-person care at an ER, hospital or doctor's office. Instead, the department asks that you call your local healthcare provider or local health department. If you are sick and feel you have an emergency, please call your doctor or seek medical care.
“All of our providers follow CDC guidelines about deciding who to test, which patients meet the suggested guidelines, such as having symptoms or having potential exposure to someone who was positive,” Weber noted.
Weber said that a process was set in place so that healthcare providers aren’t bombarded with people wanting to be tested, who don’t need to be tested.
“We’re trying to encourage people to follow certain steps on who to call if they’re concerned about coronavirus and honestly providers are just getting bogged down by some of these requests,” said Weber.
Weber’s advice on testing echo that of Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear who during his press conference Thursday evening said it would be difficult to confirm the total number of tests conducted in Kentucky, because tests are now being done by several different labs.
On Thursday Beshear also announced that the following labs were conducting testing for Kentucky, but also noted that the number of labs increases daily and that just because a lab does testing for Kentucky doesn’t mean that all of the lab’s capacity is for Kentucky. Those labs include the Kentucky State Lab, Lab Corp, the University of Louisville, Quest, Diatherix, Gravity Diagnostics and Solaris.
“We only have a couple from some of those,” Beshear said on the test results received from the aforementioned labs. “And when we have more labs there’s a difference in timing. How long each test would take as it goes and comes back when it’s not done by our lab is out of our hands. It’s not ideal either in how long it takes, but we want to see that ramped up as it comes. We still don’t have what they call that automatic or through testing that we’ve seen in a couple other places, but we are working as hard as we can to get there.”
Both Marcy Rein from the Whitley County Health Department and Mark Hensley from the Laurel County Health Department confirmed this saying it was impossible to know the number of tests conducted in each specific county because private healthcare providers are conducting tests.
“Nobody has that information because private people are doing tests,” said Rein, the Public Health Director at the Whitley County Health Department. “So the tests themselves aren’t being reported, it’s not reportable that you’re a doing a test. It’s only reportable if it comes back positive,” she continued. “There’s quite a lot of tests happening. We don’t know even here who’s doing test from day to day, that’s been changing, who’s doing the test and how many they’re doing, that sort of thing. We’ve had conversations with the state lab, they don’t get that information either.”
“This is one of those things where we have people on the front lines every single day working as hard as they can, and I have limited numbers of people, and I’m not going to take them off the front line to collate some numbers just so they’re out there,” said Governor Beshear Thursday. “We’re testing every single person we can with the resources that we have, spending them wisely to make sure we’re helping the sickest.”
Both Rein and Hensley confirmed that tests were being conducted in each respective county.
“As of March 22, the Kentucky Department for Public Health reported 1-30 tests having been performed in Laurel County,” Hensley, the Public Health Director of the Laurel County Health Department wrote in an e-mail to The Times-Tribune. “This number changes frequently due to the increased number of commercial labs now performing tests.”
Hensley also offered the Times-Tribune the following list of places conducting testing in Laurel County:
— East Bernstadt Medical Clinic
— Dr. Emmanuel Yumang (started Tuesday)
— Hoskins Medical Center
— First Care Clinic (will begin sometime this week)
— Physicians Express
— Saint Joseph London
In Corbin Trinity Family Health at 205 South Kentucky Ave. is offering testing 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday with Rebecca Day, APRN. Call 606-280-4212 for more information.
“The Kentucky Department for Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have provided guidance on how to evaluate patients to determine if testing is appropriate. We are following those guidelines very closely when we see patients in the ED,” Shelley Stanko, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Saint Joseph London said.
“If the state does not believe the case meets criteria for testing, we consider other associated risks for that individual, such as other illnesses or their living arrangements, such as living in a nursing home, which could increase their risk,” Stanko continued. “Our testing has focused primarily on people who are sick enough to be hospitalized. With testing still being limited, we need to make sure we are caring for those patients who need hospitalization and treating them appropriately.”
Beshear announced Thursday that the state was working hard to secure as many testing kits and as much medical personal protective equipment (PPE) as it could. However, because testing kits and PPE are limited, the Governor said health officials are having to use resources wisely.
“So, 80% of people out there who get this, you’re going to be just fine. You’re probably going to have very mild symptoms to no symptoms, and that means what’s most important is that our healthcare system is there to help those that are truly sick. It’s going to be a test of all of us, even when there are more resources that are out there,” the Governor said.
As of Monday evening, the KDPH reports that 1,866 tests have been conducted in Kentucky, with 124 cases being positive. There have been no positive tests reported in the Tri-County area as of Monday evening.
The KDPH’s website is updated everyday at 5:30 p.m.
For more information about the state of Kentucky’s response to COVID-19, testing, and other information, be sure to check out the KDPH’s website at kycovid19.ky.gov.