Many Summit County residents have been asking about testing for the COVID-19 corona virus and why it’s not being conducted on a much larger scale.
The answer to that, according to Summit County Public Health Director Amy Wineland, is simply a matter of prioritizing and rationing the tests to make best use of the information.
“We have limited testing kits, so we’re only able to test those in our highest-risk categories, local health-care workers and first responders,” Wineland said. “That’s why we can’t test more and show we have more widespread illness. But we know that it’s here.”
Front-line health-care workers and medics face a potential two-week quarantine and restriction from working if they are exposed directly to a person with the highly infectious virus or are exhibiting symptoms themselves. A negative test result for them, however, will allow them to return to their duties 72 hours after symptoms clear up, reducing the strain on the rest of the medical corps.
As of Friday, Summit County had eight confirmed positive test results, although that number is thought to be only a small portion of the number of people here who have the virus and have not been tested.
“We believe this greatly under-represents what is happening in the community," Wineland said. "We are certain that more people have contracted the virus that we are not able to be tested because they do not fit the criteria.”
Because health officials know that the virus is being transmitted from person to person within the community, to a certain extent confirming every suspected case of the virus makes little difference because of its exponential spread.
More than 80 percent of those who contract the virus will have relatively mild symptoms, including a fever, cough and shortness of breath, and can manage symptoms at home without the need for medical care. The two- to 11-day incubation period for the virus means that there is a lag between contracting the virus – and potentially being contagious – and showing symptoms. Other types of colds and the flu also are present here and can be confused with COVID-19.
In any event, the treatment for mild cases of any of these illnesses is the same, regardless of whether a test has been conducted: rest, lots of fluids and over-the-counter fever-reducing medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Sick people should stay home and isolate themselves, and they should call their health-care provider if symptoms worsen.
Tests are being given to people who are being hospitalized with severe respiratory illnesses, and they are being treated as if they have the corona virus pending those results.
Public Health workers now are canvassing private medical providers to gain anecdotal evidence of how many people are reporting respiratory illnesses, which can help estimate the spread of the virus, Wineland said.