Summit County officials alter eligibility for coronavirus testing as nation faces testing backlog |

Summit County officials alter eligibility for coronavirus testing as nation faces testing backlog

Taylor Griffith, a paramedic for Stadium Medical, tests a patient for coronavirus April 29 at a mobile testing site in Dillon Valley.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Summit Daily archives

KEYSTONE — The Summit County Public Health Department has altered testing eligibility requirements for the novel coronavirus to ease demand on testing laboratories. 

At a joint Board of Health and Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting Thursday, July 23, Public Health Director Amy Wineland announced that the county’s testing website has been changed with more information about who should be tested. 

The website laid out the four scenarios in which a person is recommended to get tested:

  • When a person has symptoms of the virus, which include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, headache, loss of taste or smell, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea
  • When a person is hospitalized with symptoms of the virus
  • When a person is a close contact of a confirmed case of the virus. A close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of a person who has the virus for longer than 15 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • When a person has been in a congregate setting where there may be broader exposure to the virus as determined by public health

Wineland said the goal of the new requirements is to alleviate some of the backlog at testing laboratories, which causes test results to be delayed. At the Tuesday, July 21, meeting, Wineland said test results are averaging five to seven days. 

“We’re seeing a lot of tests going to the labs that aren’t necessarily meeting criteria as far as risk goes, having exposure or even close contacts,” she said at Thursday’s meeting. “Or people are just using it because they’re worried but don’t necessarily have exposure risk.”

The testing website also describes people who should not get a test, although they may want one:

  • People who don’t have any symptoms and aren’t a close contact of another case
  • People who are preparing to travel or recently returned from travel and do not have symptoms; however, testing is available for those who are traveling somewhere that requires a test. 
  • Employees who aren’t considered a close contact of a positive case
  • People who are worried but aren’t a close contact and don’t have symptoms
  • People who have been confirmed as a positive case previously and want to be retested for release from isolation

The testing backlog isn’t specific to Summit County. Many testing centers use Labcorp and Quest labs to analyze test results. Those labs have experienced a national backlog in testing because of hot spots in Arizona, Texas and Florida. 

“We’ve heard horrific stories of it taking up to 10, even 12, days for people’s results to come back due to the national testing backlog,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said at a news conference Thursday. “That is unacceptable. It is not helpful at all to have the results that far away.”

Polis announced that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment would be expanding the state lab capacity and bringing in private lab partners to help with the backlog. 

“In the absence of a clear national testing strategy, Colorado is working hard to secure our own testing supplies, expanding our state lab capacity, bringing on board private partners, university partners, hospital partners and others,” he said. “While we all would be better off if there was a national testing strategy and effective management of supplies, that’s not the world we live in.”

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