Lack of testing kits continues to slow local coronavirus fight

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — They came by pallet Wednesday night: an assortment of personal protection equipment from the national stockpiles for use by health care workers on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, including N-95 masks.

But was it enough to get a get a handle on the scope of coronavirus in Kent County?

“No. Unfortunately, it’s not. It’s a very, very limited supply,” Kent County Health Department Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Dr. Karla Black said. “The way that health care is in need of masks, face shields, everything so limited across the nation, this is just a minute drop in the bucket for what we need.”

Health departments across the country, including the one in Kent County, have reached out to other groups who use masks, including dentists and construction companies, for help.

“We’ve gotten a very few donations so far. I haven’t heard yesterday or today yet. It’s been pretty limited so far,” Black said.

The masks and other personnel protection gear is designed to protect health care workers treating those with the highly contagious coronavirus from getting it themselves.

“However, there is another issue out there and that is the actual things that are needed to do the testing itself. So that’s more like the swabs that are needed to perform the test themselves. What we’re seeing right now is that’s a great limiting step,” Black said.

“Until we have that good picture, it’s going to be really hard for us to be able to push people towards staying home, especially when they’re sick. Washing hands, all of that, I don’t think it becomes real until it’s real for everyone,” she continued.

The lack of testing kits has had a domino effect. Local hospital are geared up to open more drive-in testing centers.

“Depending on the supply on hand, they could open more, but I think at this point, it could be pretty limited,” Black said.

Several private labs in the area can now test for COVID-19, improving the turnaround for diagnosis.

“There is a bit more movement on the private side. However, again, if you don’t have the swabs, it will still be an issue,” Black said.

For now, public health officials continue hoping for new developments the test kit front.

“We really want to know what’s going on in our community. We want to know how many people are infected, because really our job here at public health is to try to limit that,” Black said. “And if we don’t really know the full disease scope in our community, it’s really hard for us to work with our community to let them know what is out there and how we can start mitigating that. “

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