Altruistic org, doc bring more COVID testing to Valley
By Eric Valentine
On the heels of a St. Luke’s announcement reminding Valley folks to not use the emergency room for COVID testing and in response to the lingering lack of available testing for people who may be asymptomatic, a recently formed community health group has stepped up to the plate. COVID Outreach Wood River—a collaboration between St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation and local physician Tom Archie—has opened three COVID-19 nasal swab testing locations across the Valley and will provide mobile testing to businesses, schools and other organizations, too.
And, it’s free. Community generosity and clinical innovation, St. Luke’s said, made it possible for the expansion of viral detection testing.
“We are incredibly grateful for Dr. Archie’s vision and the generosity of the community that has made this effort a reality,” said Megan Dawson Edwards, president of the St. Luke’s foundation. “This investment is one strategy to help suppress the pandemic in the Wood River Valley.”
The project came together with the altruistic intentions of Dr. Archie who heard a news story about a similar effort in Philadelphia. Synergistically, passionate community philanthropists were seeking innovative ways to expand testing for the Wood River Valley. The goal of the project is to fill a COVID testing gap produced by the lack of available testing for asymptomatic people. By increasing testing availability, a greater number of people with new COVID-19 infections will be able to more quickly self-quarantine and thereby protect others, limiting further spread. In fact, results will be available within 24 to 36 hours, a far faster return time than just weeks ago.
The project will prioritize those who have had a close-contact exposure to someone with COVID-19 or have an upcoming out-of-area medical procedure requiring testing. People who are symptomatic but have difficulty accessing testing will also be served. Meanwhile, symptomatic patients should continue to access testing through St. Luke’s.
To schedule testing, visit COVIDOutreachWoodRiver.com.
And there’s more
Efforts are under way to be fully inclusive and ensure broad Valley access to this testing outreach by addressing language, digital-access, and cultural barriers. Currently, this includes in the coming weeks the positioning of testing locations on bus lines and near bus stops, scheduling weekend testing on Saturdays in Bellevue (and Fridays in Hailey), planning to grow staffing so as to extend into a mobile format for businesses with many employees and outbreak concerns.
Also, in the coming weeks, this effort will see the translation of the website and scheduling questionnaire into Spanish and the development of access to interpreter services. Online-only scheduling and communication can remain a barrier for some, though the website and scheduling system both function well on mobile devices.
Amid the COVID pandemic, some Valley residents are also facing economic challenges and even devastation. While the new testing program can’t entirely solve that dilemma, it is providing job opportunities for at least a few folks.
The organization said it is in search of staffing for temporary employment in November and likely through the end of January, possibly longer. When testing is at full capacity, hours will be generally Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for 16 to 30 hours per week. Required background includes any of the following:
● Emergency first responders
● Certified nurses
● Medical laboratory scientist/technician
● Spanish language interpretation services needed
The job description includes collecting nasal swabs for tests, processing PCR or antigen tests for SARS-CoV-2 (rapid tests on-site), confirming patient registration information accuracy (EMR), storing lab results in an online electronic medical record (EMR), sending lab results and information to patients (portal access from EMR), and sending positive lab results to South Central Public Health District.
Where are testing locations?
● Temporary drive-up testing sites
Ketchum: Lupine Building, 220 S. 2nd Ave., Suite 103
Hailey: Blaine County School District Office, 118 W. Bullion St.
Bellevue: South Central Public Health, 117 Ash St.
When are testing locations open?
● Monday – Saturday
● Check the website for location details: COVIDoutreachWoodRiver.com
To support this effort, please visit www.slwrf.org