Testing crunch makes social distancing key to slowing spread of COVID-19

Peter Baumann
Post Independent
This undated file photo provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows CDC's laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus.

A majority of specimens sent off from Valley View for COVID-19 testing have yet to be finished, hospital administration said at a news conference Wednesday.

Out of 22 specimens sent in for testing, seven have returned negative and one returned positive (as previously reported). The rest are still pending.

Valley View doesn’t do testing — the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and some private laboratories are currently the only sites with the capability to do so in the state, CEO Dr. Brian Murphy said.

It’s taking about 4-5 days for test results to be available.

“That’s been our experience,” Chief Medical Officer David Brooks said.

The scarcity of testing is not a local or statewide issue, but rather a nationwide issue. Multiple states from Washington to New York have seen more need than can be currently met with the tests on hand.

The lack of testing means social distancing is even more important in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing means keeping at least 6 feet between oneself, avoiding crowds and generally minimizing close contact.

Social distancing might not stop someone from getting sick, but it “flattens the curve” and levels out the number of cases at a given time, meaning hospitals aren’t overwhelmed.

Murphy said social distancing, following FDA regulations and keeping people who might have COVID-19 but are not showing symptoms out of the hospital are just some of the steps being taken at Valley View to keep patients and employees safe.

Instead of visiting Valley View, those who think they might have COVID-19 but aren’t in need of medical assistance should call the bilingual Aspen to Parachute COVID-19 hotline: 970-429-6186.

Operators speak Spanish and English and can transfer callers to medical professionals for advice about dealing with personal symptoms and those seeking testing. Testing, however, is being reserved for those most in need — the gravely ill or those with underlying health conditions.

“At this point keeping people at home with mild symptoms is the best thing we can do,” Brooks said.

Doing so helps not just patients already in the hospital from potentially becoming infected, it also helps Valley View’s health care works best focus on those who most need their skills and treatment, Brooks added.

“I’d like to really recognize the incredible effort, work and commitment they’re putting into this difficult situation,” he said. “They’re potentially putting themselves at risk when they continue to come and care for patients with COVID-19 … To that end, we do everything we can to keep our health care staff safe.

“They are our most valuable resource.”

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