County health officials and emergency service providers will begin the county-wide COVID-19 testing this week. Pilot testing will start Wednesday with a pre-selected group of people to help refine the procedure before it is launched to the public. Officials say the public launch will likely begin a few days later at the Telluride Intermediate School gym for residents in the east end of the county; they are still working to confirm the best location in the county’s west end.
The process is yet to be determined—whether people will be called and scheduled or how they will be asked to come to testing locations—and officials are asking folks to be patient. Information will be available as soon as possible, and they are working out the logistics with safety as the priority. People who are tested will be given a follow-up test in 14 days.
Blood testing vs. nasal/oral swabs
The tests that have been made available to county residents are newer serological (blood serum) tests. The other tests, using a nasal/oral swab, are in limited supply. According to the county’s health department, there have been 47 of those nasal/oral swab tests given locally—with one positive result, 20 negative, and 26 still pending. Another hundred were performed on March 17 and those results are expected next week.
The difference between these types of tests has been confusing for some residents. Essentially, nasal/oral swabs determine whether a person has COVID-19, regardless of whether they have symptoms, and a positive result means that person is contagious. The blood tests determine whether a person has or has had COVID-19, regardless of whether they have symptoms, and a positive result means that person could be contagious. In both cases a positive result means a person should self-isolate for 14 days.
The nasal/oral swabs look for evidence of the virus, and blood testing looks for antibodies that show that the person has been exposed to the virus and that their immune system is fighting it or has fought it. That’s the reason for the follow-up blood tests in 14 days—if a person was recently exposed and tested negative because they did not yet have an immune response, the follow-up test will be positive.
The county is not recommending testing for children 8 years old and under, as they “share their common exposures with their parents, so their immunity should mirror their parents’ immunity.” They also don’t recommend the testing for people who are homebound if they are high-risk and already sheltered in place.
A few more notes from San Miguel County:
- Testing is not mandatory, but voluntary, and will be done twice, about 14 days apart.
- Testing is only being offered to San Miguel County residents including second homeowners. Be prepared to show proof of (full or part-time) residency.
- Do NOT come from other counties and expect to be tested. You will be turned away.
- Please do not call the medical center or dispatch or try and arrange appointments.
It’s also important to note the all of these efforts are not being mandated. There are no repercussions for those who are unwilling to be tested, and all “shelter in place” and self-isolation recommendations are guidelines meant to protect public health and help our community. For more information visit sanmiguelcountyco.gov/590/Coronavirus or tune into KOTO.org every day at noon.