Local health officials got a rare piece of good news Wednesday in the maelstrom of the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, they are deciding how best to deploy a shipment of COVID-19 testing kits from the state after weeks of limited public testing.

For a change, this is a good problem to solve, much improved over having no testing kits to distribute.

Health departments in Greene County and Columbia County each received 100 testing kits, officials said Wednesday. Columbia County purchased an additional 1,000 kits with donated money on Tuesday. Columbia Memorial Health also obtained additional testing kits.

This will allow Columbia Memorial Health to expand testing to include all patients admitted to the hospital, all patients at emergency room and Rapid Care clinics who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, and all patients being discharged with similar symptoms, in addition to testing first responders and medical personnel.

Greene County health officials submitted repeated requests for testing kits through the statewide emergency services system, but this is the first time the county has received kits.

In the absence of state-provided kits, Columbia County was making plans to buy additional testing supplies. The county received total donations of $16,000 to purchase 1,000 test kits. The kits, manufactured by Thermo Fisher, are expected to arrive by April 17.

A portion of the kits will bridge the gap between people who complain of symptoms and appear to be infected, yet are not sick enough to be hospitalized.

“We get calls from very symptomatic people and based on the number of people they have been around or where they work, we think they need to be tested, but they don’t fall into the criteria that the hospital is using,” Mabb said. “The extra 100 kits from the state Homeland Security Agency will be used for that purpose, to test people that contact us, that are positive, that don’t sound sick enough to be hospitalized, but sound quite sick on the phone.”

What’s the bottom line? Having more testing kits is a sliver of light in the COVID-19 shadow, but it is still critical that Twin County residents continue to wash their hands frequently, use hand sanitizer often and practice social distancing. It is something to remember as we head into the second month of our new stay-home, stay-safe lifestyle.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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