Last week, Beth Hovee called her primary care provider, concerned that she might have a sinus infection.
Hovee, 66, had a dull headache, an ear infection and a sore throat but no fever. Her husband, Eric Hovee, 68, had a worsening cough.
A provider with the Vancouver Clinic instructed the Uptown Village couple to visit the clinic’s Columbia Tech Center location later that day to be tested for COVID-19. Within 15 minutes of being tested, they received their results: negative.
“I was shocked. I didn’t believe it,” Hovee said of her rapid test. “All you hear on the news is how backed up testing is.”
Doctors ordered a chest X-ray for Eric Hovee, and found he had a recurrence of pneumonia that first manifested in the winter. Beth Hovee was diagnosed with a sinus infection, as she originally suspected, and the couple were prescribed antibiotics.
They’re both feeling well now, and their quick, uneventful trip to the doctor offers an example of what needs to happen for the United States, and Clark County, to phase out physical distancing measures that have been implemented since the pandemic began. In order to do that, testing will need to be more widespread, with quicker turnaround times.
“They need to test everybody, so we can sort the people who have it and those who don’t,” Hovee said.
For more than a month, testing issues have trickled down from the federal to state to local level, impacting people who want to be tested. First, there were delays in getting test kits to labs, so they could process specimens. Then there was confusion over who could be tested. And there were also issues in procuring swabs and viral transport media.
Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick said some challenges around testing still exist, and the county still does not have any location that offers on-demand testing to the general public. But point-of-care testing, which occurs at the time and place of patient care, is expanding in Clark County.
“It’s none of this four-day turnaround anymore,” Melnick said. “This will really help if we want to move away from physical distancing.”
Vancouver Clinic, PeaceHealth and Legacy Health all now have some sort of rapid testing option, which returns results in about 15 to 20 minutes. Vancouver Clinic spokeswoman Chastell Ely said Vancouver Clinic can now process close to 2,000 tests per week.
A Legacy Health press release from April 9 said the hospital system can run more than 650 tests per day.
PeaceHealth is offering point-of-care testing to all patients admitted into its emergency department and family birth center, but the rest of its testing is sent to a lab, and has about a 24-hour turnaround, according to spokeswoman Debra Carnes.
Eric Frank, with the Clark Joint Information Center, said the county has received about 2,000 test kits from the state Department of Health. Frank said Public Health and providers are working together to conduct testing in Clark County’s long-term care facilities with confirmed cases, so those residents don’t have to leave their homes.
There are 43 confirmed cases in long-term care facilities in Clark County, and health officials, mayors and the Clark County Council have expressed a need for expanded testing in the facilities.
“As testing becomes more available, we are prioritizing population,” Melnick said.