Health director: Testing for COVID-19 remains limited, but improvements expected soon
KINGMAN – While local hospitals have not experienced a surge of COVID-19 cases and Mohave County’s hospital capacity is still where it needs to be, county Public Health Director Denise Burley said regional testing remains limited.
“A lack of test kits causes agencies to really regulate the number of tests,” she told the county board of supervisors on Monday, April 20 after Supervisor Buster Johnson of District 3 again inquired about the availability of test kits for patients in Bullhead City.
When Johnson asked if the testing criteria can be relaxed to include people with some or mild symptoms of COVID-19, Burley said it is the lack of test kits that drives the criteria.
Supervisor Hildy Angius of District 2 asked how many county residents show up at local health facilities with some coronavirus symptoms and are not getting tested. Burley promised to follow up on her question.
Burley also said her department is working with state Rep. Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu City) to acquire more test kits for the community and is taking requests from health agencies and providers with a deadline of Wednesday, April 22.
“The interest so far is very strong,” Burley said.
She spoke about various tests – both diagnostic tests for COVID-19 and antibody tests to check who has been exposed to the coronavirus. Burley explained the county cannot approve of some of those tests because the particular ones available on the market are not quite reliable yet.
“Science is moving really fast,” Burley said, “and they are working on perfecting those tests.”
She expressed hope that good diagnostic tests will soon be available and, combined with working antibody tests, will help to understand “where those numbers really are,” Burley said, referring to residents who have or may have had COVID-19 but were never tested or aware of being infected.
“It will be very useful for the future, to understand the disease better,” Burley said.
Supervisor Ron Gould of District 5 asked about the two-week period of declining positive cases identified by U.S. President Donald Trump as a prerequisite to reopening the economy. “How is that going to work if the timing of receiving positive tests is more based on” when the lab has the results than the actual occurrence of the virus, Gould asked.
“The labs are processing the tests much more quickly and we get the results more timely,” Burley answered, adding that the wait time for a test result has been reduced from 14 days to two or three days. “The delay is no longer there," she said.
Burley confirmed that many recent local COVID-19 cases have been identified as resulting “community spread,” meaning they are not linked to previous cases or travel, but rather the general spread of the virus in the community.
She also said La Paz County reached out offering assistance to Mohave County in terms of epidemiological help and contact tracing assistance. The county is grateful and is considering the offer, Burley said.
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