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TestNebraska comes to Schuyler

TestNebraska comes to Schuyler

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A new TestNebraska site opened this week in Colfax County, said Connie Peters, president of CHI Health Schuyler.

The site went live on Tuesday, Aug. 4, and will also run Thursday, Aug. 6 from 9-11 a.m., Peters said.

The test positivity rate in Colfax County was 39.2%, according to the East-Central District Health Department’s July 31 situation update, and there have been four deaths in Colfax County.

“I think we knew that that was a goal of ours to bring this to the community. It’s an important thing,” Peters said. “We want as many people tested in our community as possible.”

CHI Health Schuyler has been working on a contract with the State of Nebraska, which goes through the end of October, Peters said, and because CHI Health Schuyler is part of a larger health system, there were other CHI sites included in the contract.

“It will be a drive up test site on the south side of the hospital campus,” Peters said.

The samples collected at CHI Health Schuyler will be transported via courier to Lincoln for testing, she noted, which was one of the details they had to arrange before they could start.

Colfax County’s test positivity rate has fallen from a high of near 50% to close to 40% in the last several weeks.

“Increased testing with fewer discovered cases consistently over time led to an incremental decrease in the overall positivity rate over time,” said Chuck Sepers, chief public health officer of the East-Central District Health Department.

Positivity rates are improving and there are currently 55 active cases in the district, although relative risk increased in Colfax, Platte and Nance counties, according to the July 31 update. Colfax County has the highest risk assessment of those four counties.

There are two reasons widespread testing can help curb the pandemic, according to ECDHD. First, testing helps identify people with COVID, including the many people who show no symptoms.

“Once identified by testing, positive cases can self-isolate or quarantine, which assists in stopping the spread of the virus in the community,” wrote East-Central in emailed comments. “Testing also makes it possible for health departments to do contact investigations. During a contact investigation, contact tracers work to identify everyone who has come in contact with the infected person.”

Colfax County’s test positivity rate is so high because of the county’s low population density but an “increased number of positive cases," ECDHD wrote.

“Smaller populations can reach higher percentages with fewer cases and conversely, their numbers can decrease rapidly as recovery numbers increase."

Many new cases have been associated with travel to “domestic hotspots,” according to ECDHD’s July 31 update, and people traveling out of Nebraska “should avoid affected states.”

Whether the new TestNebraska site will lower risk depends on the results, although it will increase the availability of tests.

For the hospital, TestNebraska has been logistically-involved.

“It was just a process with getting the agreement, getting training coordinated with the National Guard and then the National Guard is sending supplies and our personal protective equipment and doing the training...” Peters said in July. “...We’ll start Aug. 4. Actually, it’s happening pretty quickly.”

People will have to register through TestNebraska's website and select Schuyler as a site. The Nebraska National Guard inputs Schuyler into the state database, Peters said.

“I would just encourage people to go on the Test Nebraska website to sign up,” Peters said.

Carolyn Komatsoulis is a reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach her via email at carolyn.komatsoulis@lee.net

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