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Covid-19 testing questions addressed
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When it comes to Covid-19 testing, there are several misconceptions and these are causing confusion amongst the public, health-care professionals say.

First is the term testing itself, said Steve Stites, chief medical officer for the University of Kansas Health System based in Kansas City, Mo. This refers only to the processing of a sample taken by a qualified laboratory.

If a person notifies a health-care provider in Barton County that they have symptoms of the disease, the provider will collect specimens. These consist of nasal and throat swabs; collecting them can be uncomfortable, but is not invasive nor time consuming.

These specimens have to be sent off to a lab for testing, Stites said. This can take a few days. 

As for labs, the choices are somewhat limited, said Kristi Zears, communications director for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. In addition to KDHE, there are other private labs on board in Kansas that providers can use. And, if they contract with chain labs, like Quest, that might incorporate some out-of-state testing. 

Regardless, Zears said, Covid-19 is a reportable illness, so KDHE is notified of any positive results.

Not just anyone can be assessed, Zears said. It has to be ordered by a health-care provider and a person needs to be symptomatic. 

Locally, the private medical providers are doing these assessments and collections, and sending samples to either the KDHE lab or to a commercial lab for testing, said Barton County Clerk Donna Zimmerman.

 It was originally only the Centers for Disease and Control that did the testing, then the CDC opened it up to the states (KDHE), and has now opened it to private commercial labs. 

The Barton County Health Department isn’t involved with the assessment/collection, Zimmerman said. They are busy with contact investigation on PUI (person under investigation) cases.  

A matter of priorities

Whether taken by a private lab or the KDHE, all testing is being prioritized due to the wide-scale shortages of laboratory supplies and reagents, based on guidelines issued by the KDHE Monday. Testing must be prioritized for public health purposes and urgent need.  

KDHE reports Covid-19 testing will be reserved for the following patients that meet Kansas’ PUI criteria, including:

• Health-care workers and first responders who have Covid-19 symptoms. 

• Potential clusters of unknown respiratory illness, with priority given to long-term care facilities and health-care facilities.

• Hospitalized patients with no alternative diagnosis.

• Individuals over the age of 60 who have symptoms of Covid-19 with priority given to people who reside in a nursing home, long-term care facility, or other congregate setting.

• Individuals with underlying health conditions that would be treated differently if they were infected with Covid-19.

There continues to be no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Barton County at this time. Of the 105 Kansas counties, 87 counties have no positive tests.  

According to the KDHE, there were 98 confirmed cases in the State of Kansas as of Tuesday afternoon.