New, free rapid COVID testing helping to zero in on positive cases locally
Today, the first time since the pandemic hit Western New York, residents of Genesee County who are not showing symptoms of COVID-19 could get free coronavirus test locally.
The newly available rapid test is important, said Paul Pettit, public health director, because asymptomatic people can spread the disease. Identifying them will help slow the spread.
"The folks in the community that may be positive, that don't know they have it, they may be contributing to some of our higher numbers that we've been seeing over the last month," Pettit said.
In the first hour, 100 people were tested and three tests were positive.
Those three people, Pettit said now know they should isolate themselves and avoid contact that might lead to the disease being passed on to a vulnerable person, perhaps a family member.
"These folks probably would not have gotten tested," Pettit said. "So they would have been out in the community going to hang out with their friends or family, doing different activities and they might not have known they had it so bad. By doing stuff like testing like this, it allows them to be identified and now we can put them under isolation and again, hopefully, reduce those transmissions."
As many as 350 tests were administered today. The final number of positive tests of that 350 has not been released yet.
Pettit said rapid tests for asymptomatic people will be available in Genesee County on Tuesday and Thursday through at least January. The location may not always be at the Emergency Management Office on State Street Road. Future locations, or if it will be moved, has not yet been determined.
More than 30 people volunteered to help with testing. More may be needed in the future.
Among the advantages of the free rapid test is that people who might want to travel or visit elderly family members in senior facilities were having a hard time getting required tests.
The testing will also help get a clearer picture of how prevalent the disease is locally.
Getting the tests for Genesee County has been a long and concerted effort by local officials, state and federal representatives.
People who do get tested need to recognize that the test is only a "snapshot in time," Pettit said.
"Literally, if you test today and your negative, that's great," Pettit said. "Go home, go do your thing, continue to practice all the social distancing. But the bottom line doesn't mean you won't be positive tomorrow or the next day or the day after. So really, it's one of those things there really isn't a rhyme or reason necessarily on getting tested. I mean, obviously, we don't want people coming out here every day because we want to make sure we have availability for people that need it also. But a test is a snapshot. It's only good for the time you get tested, just like with anything else."