The first drive-up testing for COVID-19 got under way at Fort HealthCare Friday, the same day the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed in Jefferson County, said health officials.
The first case of COVID-19 was a person who recently traveled domestically and developed symptoms shortly after returning home, said Gail Scott, director of the Jefferson County Health Department.
A second case in Jefferson County was confirmed on Saturday. Scott was unable to provide details.
As the number of cases has pushed toward the 300 mark in the state, including four people who have died, testing was ramping up at health-care facilities.
Drive-up testing for the virus at Fort HealthCare opened at 10 a.m. Friday on the east side of the hospital by the ambulance entrance.
“I know that we have already seen several patients today,” said Marie Wiesmann, chief nursing officer for Fort HealthCare.
The testing is not a drive-through, however. A person who is sick and wants to get tested must talk to his or her health-care provider or use an e+CARE online visit. Questions about travel, your temperature and a cough will be addressed. Then a provider will inform the person if he or she needs a test.
More than 30 people in Jefferson County had received results after being tested for the virus, with all but two coming back negativey. But there still is plenty of testing to be done.
“We have seen an increase in testing,” Wiesmann said, adding that fear and anxiety also have played a role in people wanting to be tested.
The two positive tests for patients in the Jefferson County came as surrounding county numbers continue to climb.
“The Jefferson County Health Department and area health-care providers are partnering together to complete contact tracing and follow-up guidance. We are in daily contact with this individual to monitor their symptoms and ensure they are receiving the support they need to be able to continue isolation at home,” Wiesmann said.
No other information about the patients can be provided to protect their privacy.
“The Jefferson County Health Department is ready to deal with an increased number of cases. We will continue to work with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and our local partners, to assure our community remains safe and healthy,” Scott said.
When a test becomes positive, Scott said, the state Department of Health Services contacts the county health officials immediately.
“They work with us and then we work with the person,” Scott said, noting that includes contacting other people who might have come in contact with that person.
“If they are symptomatic, we make sure they go into quarantine for 14 days,” she said.
There also is a protocol for when a person should be released from isolation.
As changes surrounding the virus come in at a rapid pace, Wiesmann said, Fort HelathCare staffers are keeping up on media information coming in from areas that have been hardest hit.
“I think that we have learned a lot of lessons from Wuhan, China; Italy and Spain; New York and Los Angeles,” Wiesmann said. “How to move forward and how not to move forward.”
And with health-care providers in the state testing positive for the virus, there are constant precautions being taken. The number one thing is to keep health-care providers safe, she said.
As Wiesmann made the rounds at the hospital Friday, she thanked people for coming in to work. And had one piece of advice.
“When you leave, go home,” she said.
That advice also applies to teens who are out co-mingling and who need to stay home, Wiesmann said.
“I think we have jumped on top of this as a state and a county,” she said. “And we working diligently with all the communities in the county to stay home and isolate as much as possible.”
While the hospital has seen an influx of patients with respiratory problems, she said, there are a few problems they are running into that have nothing to do with the virus.
One is a rising shortage in blood donations as events have been canceled.
Wiesmann said there has been a 30-percent drop in the blood supply.
“If we have a severe event of any kind, we will be (short on supply),” she said.
Part of what the hospital is trying to set up is a way people can come in to donate and be safe.
“We are going to isolate people who come out and donate,” Wiesmann said.
She said Fort HealthCare hopes to set up donation times as soon as next week.