In Buchanan County, climbing COVID-19 cases have increased demand for testing to the point it has strained resources.
Urgent Care Express in St. Joseph provides rapid one-hour testing results in a walk-up fashion, and staff there have seen a capacity of around 150 people per day, which is their max. People have been waiting outside in cars until they are called in to be screened and have the test performed.
Dr. Michael Shafe, owner and medical director for the Urgent Care Express, said they use an antigen rapid testing machine that has about a 97% accuracy rate. Many people look for that type of short testing turnaround.
He said his clinic has had to increase capacity and support staff, even sometimes turning a group of people away at 6 p.m. He suggests people only come in for a test if they have symptoms, as it can sometimes take four to five days after exposure to test positive.
“We want to be able to test the people who need to know if they have it if they’re having symptoms,” Shafe said. “A lot of employers are requiring their employees to come in and get tested. When they’re asymptomatic, if they were exposed — which, you know, we’re doing the best we can to comply with them — if you’re exposed, you don’t necessarily have to test.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a two-week quarantine if someone is a close contact of a person with a positive test, regardless of test results.
Northwest Health Services also has seen challenges in testing individuals within the community. Staff there use a triage system and assign appointments for people to get tested within the system.
Dr. Francisco Aleman, physician at Northwest Health Services, said the demand is causing a stress on testing, and at one point it was taking more than a week for standard test results to come back. As of now, it is taking about four days to get results. Northwest Health Services has a limited amount of rapid testing available.
“Our schedules have been full for weeks to be honest, and we try to accommodate but it’s just really hard to meet the demand,” Aleman said.
He said with the demand being so high and testing locations having a hard time keeping up, there may need to be a different model put in place.
“I think the idea of community testing, I think that’s kind of the benefit, to be able to do bigger number of patients through quicker pace,” Aleman said.
There will be a free COVID-19 community testing event from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, at the St. Joseph Aquatic Center, 402 S. Noyes Blvd. To sign up, go to www.health.mo.gov/communitytest.