Private COVID-19 testing currently available in the Valley
EDINBURG – The state and federal government are working to make testing for COVID-19 possible nationwide. Testing through the private sector is already available in the Rio Grande Valley.
COVID-19 tests are locally available right now, but they require patients meet certain criteria.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS confirmed Quest Diagnostics began working with cooperating physicians nationwide on Wednesday. In a statement they provided, Rachel Carr, a Quest Diagnostics External Communications Specialist said:
"Providers anywhere in the U.S. are now able to order the new test service. We are also scaling capacity now with the aim to validate and perform testing at other Quest Diagnostics high-complexity laboratories serving the United States. We expect to be able to perform tens of thousands of tests a week within the next six weeks.
The Quest Diagnostics’ SARS-CoV-2 RNA, Qualitative Real-Time RT-PCR detects nucleic acid in respiratory specimens of patients meeting the clinical criteria of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for COVID-19 testing.?
The test is performed on respiratory specimens collected by healthcare providers and forwarded to Quest Diagnostics. Providers should not refer any patient suspected of (persons under investigation) or confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 to a Quest Diagnostics Patient Service Center or other phlebotomy site."
Pricing is being finalized. They "expect results to be available 3-4 days from the time of specimen pickup; however, timing may be impacted by high demand."
This service is available in the Valley and not just by Quest Diagnostics, according to a local physician's office.
Obed Alvarez, Family Practice Center Clinical Director in McAllen, says, "On Monday, one of the big laboratories in the Valley called CPL sent 10 kits to do the collection of the specimens. Today, we received another 10 kits from Quest." The test kits sent to the Family Practice Center requires the physician's office collect a respiratory specimen from the patient. It's then sent to Quest Diagnostics labs for testing.
This testing is only going to be used for cases that go through a protocol. Alvarez explained, "These kits, they recommend for us to use only in patients that the provider's discretion has assessed at a high-risk."
Alvarez says patients who suspect they have COVID-19 symptoms will be passed into separate waiting area. A provider will ask them questions to know whether they've been in high-risk areas, near someone who has COVID-19, or if the patient is experiencing symptoms. If the patient answers they have, the office will issue a respiratory panel assessment. "That's one of the tests that we do here in order to rule out any other virus that's causing the patient symptoms not related to COVID-19," explained Alvarez.
If they rule out common illnesses like the flu, pharyngitis or Streptococcus, the doctor will determine if the patient is a high-risk or low-risk case. A low-risk patient will be put in self-quarantine, and the doctor's office will monitor the progress. "Usually the vital problems are going to go away after five or seven days," said Alvarez. "Everything is going to start going down. If that's not the case, then the patient from low-risk is going to go to high-risk patient. And then, we'll need to test for COVID-19."
So far, the office has had five people visit them. The cases tested positive for flu and strept. They have not had to send any samples for COVID-19 testing as of yet.
When a private lab runs a COVID-19 test that is positive it is considered a "presumptive" case until the state or CDC confirms the diagnosis, according to Hidalgo County Health Department Director Eddie Olivarez.
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