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Lack of statewide Covid-19 testing affecting reported case numbers

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 7:03 PM CDT
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Covid-19 testing is the only way for the Central District Health Department to report cases but ever since Test Nebraska ended last month, this has disrupted the accuracy of the numbers.

Hope Harbor relied on Test Nebraska to keep the virus at-bay within their shelters.

“Test Nebraska was definitely a very valuable asset that we were using, we had been using when it was available,” said Hope Harbor Shelter Manager Sara Moore.

Now that it’s gone, it’s been a lot more complicated getting everybody tested for Covid-19.

“It’s a little more hectic,” Moore said. “We don’t have as much flow. It was just a process that we followed for every client, so now when somebody comes in to shelter, they still do their 72-hour isolation and it will really depend on their insurance.”

Moore will refer them to a doctor to get tested if they have insurance but if they don’t they’ll send them somewhere it isn’t needed.

“A lot of the people that we serve, a barrier that they have is getting access to health insurance, so Test Nebraska really helped us meet everybody in an efficient timely manner,” Moore said.

CDHD Director Teresa Anderson believes it’s crucial for shelters to have access to testing.

“Anytime you have a number of people that are in one location whether they’re in this instance, they’re sleeping in the same facility and they’re coming and going, so it’s really easy to get a case within the facility that will spread very quickly,” Anderson said.

The health department doesn’t have the resources to test places like they did when Test Nebraska was around. The department can only test breakthrough cases or people in the hospital.

“With our very first surge we didn’t have enough tests and so we did what we were calling flying blind and we’re in a very similar situation now where we have some testing but not enough,” Anderson said.

The only way for people to get tested now is through a doctor or a take home test at a drugstore. This has made it impossible for the department to keep track of cases, since there’s no way for them to report the results.

“We may have somebody who calls in and said yes I tested and was positive, now my whole families sick, then we just lost that whole count because we don’t have anyway to continue to test,” Anderson said.

So long story short, there could be more cases of the Delta Covid-19 variant not being reported.

The Department of Health and Human Services along with the Central District is working to partner with a lab to provide more testing but until then, places like Hope Harbor are going to have to cope without it.

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