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COVID-19 cases on the rise in region, but so are number of tests

COVID-19 cases on the rise in region, but so are number of tests

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Family Practice Associates tent (copy) (copy)

Family Practice Associates lab manager Valerie Jameson, left, talks with physician Kyle Myers while nurse practitioner LeAnne Larson, right, tends to a patient inside a pop-up respiratory clinic in the Family Practice Associates parking lot.

KEARNEY — Last June, when TestNebraska opened a COVID-10 testing site at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds, it performed 41 tests the first week.

In the first two weeks of November, 715 people were tested there.

As COVID-19 soars, more people are being tested at not only TestNebraska sites but medical clinics and hospitals, too.

The fairgrounds site staff, all volunteers from hospitals and health systems, are doing 70 tests an hour, up from 60 when testing began, said Von Lutz, health education at Two Rivers Public Health Department. “They have become extremely efficient. We have not had to add more staff,” he said.

In June, 84 tests were performed at fairgrounds. That number has risen steadily ever since, from 491 in July to more than double that — 1,244 — in August. The figure dipped to 1,032 in September and rebounded to 1,250 in October. This month, the number is on track to be nearly 1,500.

So far, there have been 4,041 tests conducted at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds. COVID-19 testing is also ongoing at seven other sites within the seven-county Two Rivers area. Anyone of any age or address can get tested at any location by making an appointment at TestNebraska.com. All tests are processed at CHI Health St. Elizabeth’s in Lincoln with results usually available in 36 hours.

“Some people are not willing to drive to another town and therefore may not be able to get tested exactly when they want, but anyone can get tested,” Lutz said. When testing began, tests were limited to those in high-risk groups, but those restrictions no longer apply.

Platte Valley Medical Center

Testing has spiked in recent weeks at Platte Valley Medical Group’s Respiratory Clinic at 816 22nd Ave. On Monday alone, Platte Valley had 80 appointments for tests and took 250 phone calls, according to Amanda Polacek, marketing coordinator for Platte Valley and the Kearney Regional Medical Center.

KRMC test data reflects the rise in cases. After a bump of positive tests last spring, numbers tumbled early in the summer, but began climbing again in July and keep rising. From June 11-17, KRMC recorded just one positive test from among 58 people tested. From Nov. 5-11, 94 out of 203 tests were positive, for a positivity rate of 46.3 percent.

Platte Valley patients who come to get tested may also see a doctor, but if they simply want a COVID-19 test, they often are referred to the TestNebraska facilities, Polacek said. They should call before coming to Platte Valley at 308-865-2263.

Family Practice

Family Practice at 620 E. 25th St. has also seen a surge in testing, according to Laura Meyers, clinic administrator.

In July, Family Practice averaged 50 to 75 tests a week. By September, that shot up, as did the number of people testing positive. By Oct. 1, numbers of tests doubled from when testing began. Now, it has almost tripled.

“In the past two weeks, the positivity rate has been about 45 percent for people who come to us with symptoms,” Meyers said. “We are also seeing patients coming in who are sicker.”

To manage the crunch, the clinic has hired four additional staff for triage and cleaning and likely will add one or two more. Staff in almost every area is working extra hours. The clinic maintains separate entrances and areas for those being tested for COVID-19.

“We also have many long phone calls with people who are worried and asking questions, but we have been able to manage both sick and well patients without an issue. We still need to see people with high blood pressure, diabetes and other health issues, but increasing COVID numbers have the potential to take a toll on the staff, not just here, but at all clinics and hospitals,” she said.

She added, “A nurse came into my office the other day with tears in her eyes, worried about a patient with COVID who had low oxygen levels. Our staff develops a bond with patients, and it is heartbreaking for them to take home that worry.”

Call Family Practice at 308-865-2767.

Hy-Vee pharmacy

On Nov. 3, Hy-Vee began a free testing program at its drive-thru pharmacy at 5212 Third Ave. Coordinated by E-True North, it can accommodate 12 patients per hour and offers Saturday appointments.

Anyone can be tested, symptomatic or not, but they first must register online (www.doineedacovid19test.com) to get a test voucher number, testing site and appointment time.

At Hy-Vee, pharmacy employees provide the test kit and supervise as people administer their own tests and drop the completed kit in a collection bin. The process takes about five minutes.

The Hy-Vee pharmacy ships all tests to a lab via UPS. Results are emailed to the patient in three to five business days. Call Hy-Vee pharmacy at 308-236-0020.

CHI Health Kearney Clinic

COVID-19 tests are available at Priority Care at CHI Health Kearney Clinic at 211 W. 33 St. Test results are sent to the CHI Health lab in Omaha with results available in 24 to 36 hours. Call 308-865-2141.

maryjane.skala@kearneyhub.com

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