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Testing Asymptomatic People Is Part Of Virus Control Strategy, Too

Jul 20, 2020

A PCR testing kit, commonly known as a nasal swab test. Aspen Valley Hospital CEO Dave Ressler says the hospital will use saliva tests for less urgent tests of asymptomatic people.
Credit Courtesy of Aspen Valley Hospital

Aspen Valley Hospital’s COVID-19 testing operation has been a key part of upvalley virus control plans. Dave Ressler, Aspen Valley Hospital CEO, explained how testing people without symptoms fits into those plans during Thursday’s livestreamed community meeting.

Often, testing of asymptomatic people administered at AVH is directed by Pitkin County Public Health. Contact tracers, who identify people that may have been exposed to known cases of the virus, may ask those people to get tested regardless of whether or not they have symptoms.

Similarly, the county might arrange testing organizations with known outbreaks. For example, tests could be arranged for employees of a business who were in close proximity to an infected coworker. Vulnerable populations, like jails and homeless encampments, may also be referred for testing by the county.

Even people with symptoms are advised to contact a primary care provider first, who can refer patients for testing at the hospital. The same process applies for people who desire tests, but do not have symptoms.

Ressler said there are a “myriad” of reasons why asymptomatic people might request a test – such as plans to travel to states that require a negative test to enter, or exposure to a known infected person that has not yet been part of a contact tracing procedure. In both of those instances, people should confer with their primary care provider and then get referred for a COVID-19 test.

In instances when an asymptomatic person wants a test that does not require an urgent turnaround, Ressler said the hospital would not dip into its limited supply of rapid tests, which are processed onsite. Instead, they would administer saliva tests that are sent away for processing.