In late June, the Community Health Center of Fort Dodge rolled out same-day COVID-19 testing for anyone in the area. Patients could make an appointment, come to the health center, get a nasal swab test and receive results within as little as 20 minutes.
Three months of doing that process every single weekday proved helpful this week when the Community Health Center of Mason City rolled out a similar program on Monday.
"We got everything worked out there and made sure the kinks were out," CEO of Community Health Center of Mason City Renae Kruckenberg said.
According to her, the expansion to Mason City was something that had been planned for about a month in part because health providers in Fort Dodge were seeing a lot of out-of-town patients.
"Seeing the number of people driving all the way to Fort Dodge was a huge area of concern and a lot of these people weren’t feeling well. So bringing this to Mason City, people don’t have to drive so far," Kruckenberg said.
CG Public Health Disease Prevention Assistant Manager Jeni Stiles says that such a service, local same-day testing, is helpful not just for patients but for health officials as well. It allows them to be on top of the game rather than a couple days behind.
"Having rapid results will allow us to respond quicker. And isolate those close contacts quicker to hopefully stop spread in community," Stiles said.
Not only can officials respond quicker but the more rapid testing data they have to work off of the better chance they have of identifying COVID-19 clusters before they spiral out of control.
When people call in to CG Public Health, or when the department is asking people to get tested, Stiles said that officials are giving people all of the testing opportunities available within the area.
"Anytime we would have the availability to do that would be good," Stiles said.
The one concern that Kruckenberg does have is when people are coming in.
"If they’ve had an exposure, the recommended time is to wait 5-7 days for symptoms. It’s a waste of a test and a waste of time because the incubation period for this virus is 2-14 days. Getting tested too soon after an exposure is not recommended," she said.
As of now, the Community Health Center of Mason City has already processed almost 300 tests since Monday and has been averaging about 20 to 25 minutes per test. A single test kit, without factoring in staff time, equipment and supplies, is about $30. For the patients, testing is open to anyone and Community Health Center accepts Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurers and has a sliding scale for those who qualify. The response from those patients has been positive, according to Kruckenberg.
"It’s been busy since we turned on the phones," she said. "The patients seem to be really happy about getting results quickly."
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Jared McNett covers local government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Jared.McNett@globegazette.com or by phone at 641-421-0527. Follow Jared on Twitter at @TwoHeadedBoy98.
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