COVID-19 Testing and What You Can Do to Help
The phases of a pandemic are now familiar to us all. News programs and social media over the past week have referred to “flattening of the curve.” Slowing the acceleration phase is key to minimizing the impact of this virus on our healthcare system, but also will help expedite completion of this first wave of infection.
As we look to countries that are ahead of us in the timing on the curve, we can expect reaching the peak approximately 4 months from now (July – August 2020) depending on our success in complying with the recommended public health measures.
What we need to do
Public health measures have seen important changes to our day-to-day lives. Social distancing has become a known concept and the aggressiveness of this public health strategy has continued to escalate as the President announced limitations of social gatherings to <10 people and added further restrictions to international flights just this week. Limiting activities outside of the home to grocery shopping, work, and essential tasks should be our standard over the upcoming weeks.
Enhanced COVID-19 testing will be our measure for identifying where we are on the curve. As of now, most states continue to have limited testing available and most of these through the state health departments. Increased volume of tests (currently at ~ 4,000 daily) are expected over the next three weeks through commercial vendors, enabling testing to expand to doctor’s offices and non-hospital testing sites.
However, testing in the upcoming weeks is still about monitoring the population infection rate. Rates of infection will double rapidly as more and more testing is completed. Relaxation of public health measures should not be expected until we “reach the peak” and new numbers of infections begin to decline.
Who needs to get tested?
With a US population of 330 million people, you can see we still need to be prudent in who we choose to test. The standard criteria for testing remains:
- Fever >100.4 plus cough or shortness of breath
- Close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 OR
- Recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19
Last week areas of ongoing spread included international travel and cruise ships. As of this week, three US states are seeing “sustained community spread” including Washington, New York, and California, and would be included as additional areas qualifying for testing.
The coronavirus vaccine is ahead of schedule
One of the reassuring stories from this week is that Phase I vaccine testing has already been initiated in Washington state. This is an amazing acceleration in the timeline for human vaccine trials of only 65 days.
A protective vaccine would be an amazing advance to help “flatten the curve” over the next 4-6 months. There is still no approved anti-viral medications for COVID-19. Treatment remains supportive care for those with breathing difficulties.
I leave you with the President’s Guidelines, released yesterday, and encourage us all to do our part. Continued prayers for good health and contentment as we travel towards “the peak.”
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Alesia Greene, MD / Medical Director
General Manager, Medi-Share