GLASGOW – T.J. Samson Community Hospital had tested 23 people for the novel coronavirus as of about 3:30 p.m. Monday, with none positive at that point.
Stacey Biggs, executive vice president of marketing, planning and development for T.J. Regional Health, the hospital’s parent company, said that almost of half of those were still pending results. The hospital is using multiple labs at varying distances – to process the tests, and it takes anywhere from 24 hours to a week from the time the lab gets the test for the results to be available, she said.
The hospital and its affiliated T.J. Health Pavilion are the sole testing sites for Barren County.
If a person were to test positive, though, the county information provided publicly is based on county of residence, not testing site.
Though no Barren Countians had been reported as testing positive for the virus, a handful of positive cases have been reported for Warren County over the past week, and on Monday, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that new cases in Allen and Simpson counties are among the 124 confirmed cases reported to the Kentucky Department of Public Health. He also announced the fourth death of a Kentucky patient with COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, as an 82-year-old Fayette County woman with underlying health issues. At least 1,866 Kentuckians had been tested thus far, according to the state’s COVID-19 webpage.
According to the CDC’s COVID-19 webpage, the United States has more than 33,400 cases, with 400 deaths.
Biggs said that although the hospital’s supply of tests has increased some since they first became available, “the number of tests that we have is still quite limited, very limited in fact.” She did not have a total number readily available, she said.
“But we are working every day to get more test kits. The biggest issue with that is that every health care organization across the country basically is working every day to try to get more test kits, and they’re only really sending so many to each of us at a time, so they’re very hard to come by …,” she added. “The ultimate goal is that we’ll have enough eventually – and I don’t know when this will happen – so that everybody who wants to get tested can get tested, but we’re just not at that point yet. That would certainly help us that as it relates to tracking the true spread and to tracking the data, which will be very helpful going forward. And until we can do that, we really don’t have a true picture of the real true spread, but that’s not just us. That’s nationwide.”
She said that at one point, as the hospital would send a test to be analyzed, the labs would send that same number in new test kits to be used, but that’s one of those things that has been very dynamic, so the way it’s being done one day may be completely different the next.
“It’s still just such a fluid situation,” Biggs said.
For now, the hospital, like others, is still using guidelines established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for making those prioritization decisions. The state hotline (1-800-722-5725) as well as one established by T.J. Regional Health (270-651-4400) are tools that can help with deciding whether to even seek a test, but further screening will take place before the hospital tests for the novel coronavirus.
Beshear made very similar comments about availability of testing during his daily press conference Monday, as well as in days past, and he spoke about the need to prioritize how the tests are used so they are available for those most at risk. He stated that his goal is to have enough that the state could offer drive-through test sites.
He also said that there is a critical shortage of the personal protective equipment, especially masks, that health professionals need to wear in the process of getting the test samples, so that also affects the capability and/or timing of being able to offer more widespread testing.
The governor reiterated, as he does every day, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ three-tier approach for when a person should seek care, which is intended to ensure that the sickest people receive care, to help minimize the spread of infection and to maintain resources:
• STAY HOME: If you are worried well, please stay home or call the Kentucky State Hotline (1-800-722-5725).
• CALL FOR ADVICE: If you are ill but would not have sought care if not for COVID-19, do not seek in-person care at an ER, hospital or doctor’s office. Instead, please call your local healthcare provider or local health department.
• SEEK CARE: If you are sick and feel you have an emergency, please call your doctor or seek medical care. Hospitals and medical staff across the commonwealth stand ready to serve you.