Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

Testing site moves from fairgrounds

By William Kincaid
COLDWATER - Mercer Health's COVID-19 drive-thru testing site moved from the Mercer County Fairgrounds to a site called Mercer Health at North Main at 115 Summit St., Celina.
The new location will allow for extended testing capabilities for the next year or two, depending upon the duration of the pandemic, said Susan Miller, Mercer Health vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer.
"It allows us to still do that drive-thru service for the testing options as well as it provides us some clinic abilities inside," Miller said after Wednesday night's board of governors meeting.
Officials recently came to an agreement with the owners of the Summit Street location, which had been a First Financial Bank branch. The location also offers climate control and is expected to reduce pathogen exposure to staff, Miller said.
"There were some challenges today just based on the sheer volume and the sheer numbers," Mercer Health CEO Lisa Klenke said about Wednesday's opening. "The fairground space worked extremely well. We're in a position where we had to vacate that so that they can get ready for the fair."
A respiratory clinic may be set up in the new location in the coming weeks.
"We recognize, again, that we are trying to provide space for the community that will be able to have appropriate air circulation for the … COVID-positive patients," Miller said.
COVID-19 cases continue to surge locally.
"We are experiencing at this point some continued high volume COVID swabbing in the community," Miller said.
Health officials said 221 people were tested on Monday, the highest single-day number yet.
"Testing supplies at this point are very steady for us, but we never really know what the future is going to bring or what our vendor support is going to bring for testing supplies," Miller noted. "We're trying to be frugal and appropriate for what we need now, plus make plans for the future into the fall and winter months."
For roughly the last two months, the testing has been processed at Lima hospitals, Miller said.
"Because supply testing is not readily available to all the hospitals across the state we have partnered with the Lima hospitals to do that testing for us," she said. "We have a contract with St. Rita's hospital to do what we're calling very critical test needs, which are inpatient, ER-type of patients."
Expedited results for critical patients are available in as few as two hours but can take up to eight hours, depending on when the swab gets to the hospital and how quickly officials can run the test, Miller explained.
"Lima Memorial Hospital is doing a combination of symptomatic and asymptomatic patient testing for us, and that's a much larger volume," she said.
Test turnaround time ranges anywhere from 24 to 72 hours.
"It's a huge improvement from when we were at the beginning of this COVID pandemic," she said, noting test results then came back between two and seven days.
Mercer Health officials are in daily contact with those from Lima hospitals to discuss their testing capabilities amid a rising tide in cases. Right now, the Lima facilities appear to be in good shape, she said.
The hospital also has testing agreements with other out-of-area health service providers, Klenke said.
Asked if she expects COVID-19 cases to continue to swell in the coming weeks, Miller said it all depends on community spread.
"What we're really trying to do is make sure that we are appropriately testing the community at this point," she said. "We're really trying to focus in on that symptomatic patient, as well as patients that have a first-degree exposure with another positive individual."
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