There is finally some good news when it comes to Northern Inyo Hospital’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
During Monday’s press conference with Rural Health Clinic Director, Dr. Stacey Brown, the hospital announced that the long-awaited speedy coronavirus test will be ready for NIHD to use by the end of the week.
Brown said, “We finally got our rapid turnaround testing kits validated. The new testing protocol for coronavirus will take around an hour to complete. We will have this testing up and rolling by the end of the week.”
The rapid testing will mostly be used for critically ill patients and essential healthcare workers.
Dr. Brown also expressed that the hospital is aiming to expand testing capabilities to the general population in the future. The district would essentially move from a “containment” public health strategy, back to a “surveillance” strategy. With a “surveillance” strategy in place, NIHD would resume contact tracing, meaning the hospital would test those who have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 victim.
However, the hospital does not plan to test random individuals from the general public. The idea of doing so is simply unrealistic, since Dr. Brown said the hospital has roughly 200 testing kits available.
Brown added, “It would be an epidemiologist’s dream to test everyone in the town, but we don’t have the capacity to do that right now.”
Even better news than the rapid testing, is the notion that there is finally an end in sight when it comes to lessening social distancing measures and reintegrating various parts of society back in to the picture. As Interim Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Will Timbers remarked, “The rational here [when it comes to opening services] is that even if we do see a surge of COVID-19 patients, it is unrealistic that this disease is going to go away after we have one big surge. It will likely be a slow burn for cases, but we have to get some people back to some semblance of normal life. To that end, over the next several weeks, the hospital will provide a wider scope of services. This is going to be more like a marathon opposed to a sprint.”
When it comes to an actual timeline of when some societal functions will return to normal, Inyo County Public Health Officer, Dr. James Richardson, recently said he expects social distancing measures to lessen around May. “I suspect around mid to late May, things will start to lighten up. However, there may be a undercurrent of this virus in our community for a while,” Richardson said at last week’s “Inyo County Virtual Town Hall Meeting.”
Dr. Brown shares similar sentiments when it comes to an expiration date on the intense measures currently being taken. “I would hope that we could start some sort of phased return to normalcy by sometime in May. I will put a caveat on that though. We will be following guidelines from state and the feds before we start to open up. All kinds of functions of society must be carefully considered, and it has to be a staged and phased rollout to ensure that we don’t have to lock down everyone for another fourteen days.”