The Jackson County Health Department continues to conduct weekly conference calls with local healthcare providers to assess capabilities and to address any questions or unmet needs they might have.
If they were to have any unmet needs, there is a process by which providers can make these requests through the local Emergency Management agency. This process is very similar to how things are done after a hurricane, says health department official T.G. Harkrider
COVID-19 testing has been and continues to be available, at the health department for individuals meeting CDC criteria.
Screening determines whether that criteria is met. Some of the elements include determining whether the testing candidate: Is exhibiting symptoms of acute lower respiratory illness lie fever and cough and shortness of breath, and whether the person has had close contact with a lab-confirmed COVID-19-positive person; has been hospitalized with acute lower respiratory illness of unknown origin; has a history of travel to or from an affected geographic area with widespread community transmission; is 65 years of age or older with chronic health conditions; and is an immunocompromised person.
Right now, COVID-19 testing is basically a two-part process, Harkrider said. The first is specimen collection, where the patient is swabbed and their respiratory secretions are collected (swabbing) and the second is where the swabs are actually analyzed to see if the virus is present.
When the outbreak began the Florida Department of Health state labs were the only ones capable of conducting the analysis for COVID-19. Those labs are in Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami, so at one time there were only three locations in Florida where specimens could be analyzed in the testing process.
Since that time the commercial labs operated by companies like Quest and Labcorp have come online and have expanded the capacity to analyze specimens. However, specimen collection (swabbing) has always been available in Jackson County for patients who meet CDC testing criteria.
A shortage of sampling supplies is a concern to most all healthcare providers nationwide, Harkrider acknowledged.
“We have been working very closely with our healthcare providers here to ensure they have what they need to conduct specimen collections when necessary. There have been no patients in Jackson County who have been denied testing due to a lack of available supplies,” he said.