Gallia health dept. discusses COVID-19 testing standards

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — Holzer Health System and Gallia Health Department representatives held a digital conversation with Ohio Valley Publishing Thursday to address ongoing questions surrounding testing and health practices with the COVID-19 outbreak.

This is the second part of the interview published over the weekend in the Sunday Times-Sentinel.

“Essentially there are a set of questions,” said Holzer Health System CEO Dr. Mike Canady regarding how patients are screened for COVID-19. “Have you traveled to a place where it’s widespread? Have you been in contact with a known positive patient? What are your symptoms? It’s a flowchart we go down… Positives are reported by address, not necessarily where they’ve been diagnosed. We’ve diagnosed people from West Virginia…”

Canady said that the majority of patients may experience minimal symptoms or none whatsoever. Three to five percent of patients may experience severe symptoms in need of hospitalization.

“Supportive care depends on the severity of the illness,” said Canady. “When we bring them into the hospital for treatment, they have to be in a reverse isolation room.”

The doctor noted this meant that precautions had to be taken that contaminated air did not leave a room where a potential COVID-19 patient was being treated.

“Every person who comes in contact had to be gowned and masked using an N95 mask and that sort of stuff,” said Canady.

“With our new tiered system that we’re following from the Ohio Department of Health and the CDC, we are hitting tier one and tier two for testing,” said Gallia Health Department Public Information Officer Tyler Schweickart of testing standards. “Primarily the gist of it is that individuals that we’re testing now would be tier one with healthcare workers and hospitalized individuals. That is kind of our priority right now for testing. With tier two testing, individuals who can be tested, right now priority are congregate settings such as jails and longterm care facilities. That right now is our priority for testing.”

Updated publishing information from the Ohio Department of Health website lists priority one testing to “ensure optimal care options for all hospitalized patients, lessen the risk of hospital-incurred infections, and maintain the integrity of the healthcare system.This includes testing for: Hospitalized patients with symptoms. Healthcare workers with symptoms. This includes behavioral health providers, home health workers, nursing facility employees, emergency medical technicians (EMTs)and others rendering care in any setting.”

Priority two “is to ensure that people at highest risk of complications from COVID-19 are rapidly identified and appropriately prioritized. This includes testing for: Residents of long-term care facilities and other congregate living settings identified in Priority 2a below with symptoms. First responders and critical infrastructure with symptoms. Patients 65 years of age and older with symptoms. Patients with underlying conditions with symptoms.”

Priority two-a states, “in the context of an outbreak (2 or more cases in the same wing in a long-term care facility or other congregate living setting: Asymptomatic exposed residents and staff in congregate settings with known COVID exposure to identify infected individuals without symptoms and permit more specific cohorting and isolating residents and staff.”

The document notes that individuals without symptoms who test negative in the priorities must be quarantined for 14 days.

Third priority tests are allowed for individuals experiencing mild symptoms or who do not meet the previous priority targets in the surrounding community to decrease community spread, as resources allow.

All health providers in Ohio were asked to adhere to these standards.

Dean Wright is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing and can be reached at 740-446-2342.

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By Dean Wright