FREDERICK, Md (WDVM) — On Thursday morning, cars lined up along West Seventh Street where tents have gone up and the parking lot of the Toll House medical offices transformed into a triage site for COVID-19 testing.
“We know there’s a lot of concern in the community, ‘Do I have COVID? Is this just the flu? Am I contagious? Should I be worried? So, we’re trying to address that,” explained chief medical officer with Frederick Health, Manny Casiano.
Frederick County resident, Ben Kelkye says those questions are exactly what brought him to wait in line right at the 9 a.m. opening.
“I have a little bit of cough. I want to make sure I don’t have this pesky disease, that I do not spread it around,” Kelkye said.
Health officials say they are unable to test everyone as supplies are limited. Right now, priority is focused on patients with symptoms.
CDC guidelines are being followed to determine which patients qualify for the test. Criteria include presenting with flu-like symptoms, like a cough or fever, and shortness of breath.
“The second criteria would be: ‘Have you been in contact with someone who has COVID-19? Have you traveled outside the country?” Casiano said.
If a member of the community does meet that criteria, they’ll be met by health officials dressed in a full gown, mask, and gloves and be administered the test right from their car.
The test includes a nasal swap which lasts about 15 seconds.
That sample will first be tested for Influenza-A, Influenza-B, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) at Frederick health hospital.
“Those are the most common viruses that are occurring right now,” Casiano explained, “It is very, very rare for someone to have one of those plus COVID-19.”
If a sample tests positive for any of these initial illnesses, a patient can be notified within eight hours and likely relieve their worry of the coronavirus.
Casiano says if those results come back negative, the sample will be tested out-of-state by Quest Diagnostics. Patients can expect a call with the results within four days.
“I expect that as more testing is done on persons who live in Frederick, I expect we will find that more people will have been confirmed as positive cases,” said Frederick County Health Officer, Dr. Barbara Brookmyer.
Brookmyer says the expected rise in positive cases is due to a combination of added testing and community spread of the virus. She explains that in early cases of the coronavirus, patients could pinpoint who they’d have close contact with and how they’d become ill, but more recent trends show community transmission.
“As more testing was performed, it was being discovered that there are individuals who became infected they’re not really sure who they were in contact with,” Brookmyer explained.
The Maryland Health Department will be notified of any positive cases of the coronavirus.