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Answers to Your Questions about COVID-19 Testing

Friday, May 1, 2020

Community news

[Fergus Falls, MN and Elbow Lake, MN] The news is full of information about a variety of tests. Some tests diagnose COVID-19; others identify novel coronavirus antibodies in the blood and serum. Lake Region Healthcare and Prairie Ridge Hospital and Health Services are providing some clarity about COVID-19 testing for the general public.

An April 22nd announcement by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, said a breakthrough for rapid, widespread testing of COVID-19 in Minnesota would help test all symptomatic people, isolate confirmed cases, and expand public health surveillance tools. He said that by building capacity to test as many as 20,000 Minnesotans per day, this increased testing and tracing will support the state’s response to the pandemic and the safe re-opening of society. The Trump administration said a few days later that a new blueprint would be a significant expansion of private-sector testing capabilities and growing the supply chain for testing supplies.

As a result, there have been many questions about the availability of testing locally, what types of testing are available and how to know if you should be tested. LRH and PRHHS offer the following guidance for frequently asked questions related to COVID-19 Testing:

Should I be tested?

People who do not have symptoms generally should not be tested for COVID-19. Due to national shortages of lab testing supplies, we do not have an unlimited capacity for testing. If you are unsure if your symptoms warrant testing, you should call your local clinic (see phone numbers below) and speak to a COVID screening nurse or answer the online screening questions in the chat box at www.lrhc.org/covid19 or on the MDH website at the “Should I Get Tested” link.

In general terms, we are currently testing people according to the following criteria.

One of the following symptoms: fever, coughing or shortness of breath. OR

Two or more of the following symptoms: chills, fatigue, headache, diarrhea, body aches, lack of appetite, change in taste or smell, sore throat.

We also test close contacts (household members or caregivers) of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 (even if they’re asymptomatic) and we will provide follow up testing for someone who has tested positive previously.

Please note that if you have emergency warning signs for COVID-19 including trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or ability to arouse or bluish lips or face, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Where can I get tested?

Additional testing locations in Minnesota can be found on the MDH website.

Please call the clinic at the phone numbers above before coming to our facilities to complete a phone screening and receive further direction about getting tested if deemed appropriate.

Do you offer drive up testing?

Yes, both LRH and PRHHS offer drive-up testing. To access this testing, patients should first call their clinic. If testing is recommended, you will be directed regarding how to access drive-up testing after talking with a COVID screening nurse.

How is testing done?

A swab is used to take a sample of nasal or throat secretions which are tested for the presence of the COVID-19 antigen (an antigen is anything that sparks an immune response).

How long does it take to get results?

There are several different COVID antigen tests on the market. The test we are currently utilizing takes about 1-3 days to get results back from the testing lab we use at Mayo Clinic. It usually take a day or two after the positive test result for the numbers to be updated on the state’s public dashboard of confirmed cases.

Do you offer anti-body testing?

Yes, both LRH and PRHHS offer anti-body testing.

What is anti-body testing and how is it used?

Antibody blood tests, also called serologic tests, check your blood by looking for antibodies, which show if you had a previous infection with the virus. This test must be ordered by your healthcare provider.

Depending on when someone was infected and the timing of the test, the test may not find antibodies in someone with a current COVID-19 infection. Antibodies are proteins that help fight off germs. A positive serologic test result shows you have antibodies that likely resulted from an infection with SARS-CoV-2, or possibly a related coronavirus.

It’s unclear if those antibodies can provide protection (immunity) against getting infected again. This means that we do not know at this time if antibodies make you immune to the virus.It’s possible you might test positive for antibodies and you might not have or have ever had symptoms of COVID-19. This is known as having an asymptomatic infection, or an infection without symptoms. If you test negative for COVID-19 antibodies, you probably did not have a previous infection that has gotten better. However, you could have a current infection. It’s possible you could still get sick if you have been exposed to the virus recently, since antibodies don’t show up for 1 to 3 weeks after infection. Some people may take even longer to develop antibodies, and some people may not develop antibodies. For all of these reasons, we caution that anti-body testing is not currently especially useful to individuals. Its main benefit is when broad antibody testing is done it may be helpful in determining when it’s safe to open up the community more broadly when a large percentage of a population has positive antibodies.

How much does testing cost and is it covered by insurance?

Patient responsibility for COVID testing charges will vary based on coverage. Many insurances are waiving patient responsibility. Medicare through the CARES act is paying for most uninsured patients. If neither of those situations apply, these tests typically fall under your blood work and lab testing policy. This table outlines the basic charges.

More COVID-19 Resources

Patients with questions or concerns about an upcoming appointment should call their local clinic. Phone numbers for all LRH and PRHHS locations are available at: https://www.lrhc.org/contact-us/ and https://www.prairiehealth.org/contact-us/.

Questions about COVID-19 can be addressed by the MN Department of Health Hotline: 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903.

Patients who are experiencing symptoms should call their local provider’s office to be screened and receive further instruction about home management strategies, or whether they should seek further testing or treatment.

Visit lrhc.org/covid19 for the latest local updates.

About Us

The Lake Region Healthcare enterprise is comprised of Lake Region Healthcare, an independent community-governed non-profit headquartered in Fergus Falls, the Mill Street Residence Assisted Living Facility in Fergus Falls, and the non-profit critical access hospital, Prairie Ridge Hospital and Health Services headquartered in Elbow Lake. With over 85 medical staff and over 1,000employees, they are dedicated to serving the healthcare needs of our communities with values of Excellence, Person-Centered, Collaboration, Stewardship, Integrity, Respect and Innovation. Together they bring specialty and sub-specialty services to patients at hospital locations in Fergus Falls and Elbow Lake and at clinics in Ashby, Barnesville, Battle Lake, Evansville, Herman, Hoffman, and Morris, MN.

For more information visit:

www.lrhc.org

www.prairiehealth.org

www.millstreet.lrhc.org

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