Here’s another look at COVID-19 testing in the CSRA

CSRA News

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – We’ve seen testing across the CSRA for months now, but for some, understanding the process of finding out if you’re positive can be confusing.

While we work to reduce the spread of COVID-19 wearing a mask, washing our hands and social distancing, there are still people getting sick. So, we wanted to take another look at the process for who should be tested and how it all works.

“We may reach a point very soon where we don’t test people who aren’t high risk or who don’t need to be tested,” said Augusta University Health Systems VP and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule.

Since March, the CSRA has seen more and more COVID-19 testing and with that, both negative and positive cases. While we don’t deal with bumper to bumper testing lines, hours long wait times and packed out parking lots, there could soon be a line drawn between who gets the nose swab decision maker and who does not.

“Those who are exposed and not symptomatic, I think it’s nice to know and it may be used to shorten the quarantine period, but it’s not an absolute necessity,” Dr. Coule told NewsChannel 6 on widespread testing.

Augusta University provides majority of the region’s COVID-19 testing. You call (706) 721-1852 and are scheduled a few days out. Dr. Coule said people with symptoms such as fever, congestion, cough, runny nose and even gastrointestinal issues should take a test as should anyone who has been in close contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus. Close contact is typically three feet for three minutes or within six feet for 15 minutes, according to Dr. Coule.

AU will charge your insurance, but there is no copay or fee for those without insurance.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed on March 18 guarantees most people will not pay for a COVID-19 test as long as there is a public health emergency.

Since the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) on March 18, most people should not face costs for the COVID-19 test or associated costs. Starting on March 18 and lasting for the duration of the public health emergency, all forms of public and private insurance, including self-funded plans, must now cover FDA-approved COVID-19 tests and costs associated with diagnostic testing with no cost-sharing, as long as the test is deemed medically appropriate by an attending health care provider. This includes high-deductible health plans and grandfathered plans, but does not apply to short-term, limited duration plans. As outlined by CMS in a series of FAQs, there is no limit on the number of COVID-19 tests that an insurer or plan is required to cover for an individual, as long as each test is deemed medically appropriate and the individual has signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or has had known or suspected recent exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Federal guidance does not require coverage of routine tests that employers or other institutions may require for screening purposes as workplaces reopen.

And at AU, the results won’t take weeks like most places, but typically 24 hours.

Dr. Coule said, “The advantage that we have is that we’re running our tests locally. We’re not shipping them off to a lab, we’re actually running them ourselves and we have about four different platforms.”

COVID-19 testing is also done in some Walmart Parking lots (https://www.doineedacovid19test.com/), CVS stores and the local health department. Georgia Department of Public Health’s Dr. Stephen Goggans reports that it takes about five days to get an appointment for test collection and about a four to six day turnaround for results.

MedNow, a string of eight urgent care facilities run by Dr. Mark Newton, offers tests too, but results may take a little longer than AU.

“Testing did get down to where it was only a couple of days coming back, now we’re at about four to five days,” he said.

Newton added at MedNow and Urgent MD, there was a surge and testing took longer, but he said LabCorp, the official testing site, is catching up. Unlike AU, people with or without symptoms and even people who were not exposed are encouraged to get a test.

Dr. Newton said, “If we just wait for them to have symptoms, there are just so many people who don’t ever get symptoms. We would be missing out on them donating plasma and wouldn’t play an important role in avoiding another shutdown this winter.”

MedNow has done more than 10,000 COVID-19 tests since the pandemic started and like AU, it charges your insurance, but there’s still no copay or fee for the uninsured. While the interface is improving in order to deliver quicker results, Dr. Newton is hoping for the fastest turnaround that already exist.

“I’m pretty confident sometime before long we’ll have those machines that are going to hospitals and nursing homes that have a one hour turnaround,” he said. “We don’t want to get in the way of them getting what they need, so that they can keep our medically fragile and vulnerable populations as safe as they can be.”

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