Coronavirus testing in West Virginia has been few and far between, but a Kanawha County clinic is working around the lack of government funding to screen its patients.
Melissa McLaughlin, a registered medical assistant at Clendenin Health Center, has been trying to snag every person before they walk into the clinic to ask them if they have a fever, dry cough or have traveled out of state recently.
Those are guidelines the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set for who may receive a test for the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Because of the limited numbers of tests throughout the country, there’s a high threshold for who may be tested, McLaughlin said.
Posted inside a large yellow tent provided and assembled by the Clendenin Volunteer Fire Department, McLaughlin said she had administered six COVID-19 tests between Tuesday and Wednesday morning.
The Clendenin Health Center actually had these testing kits, which includes a nasal swab and transport tube, already on hand. McLaughlin said the kits aren’t meant for just the coronavirus; their primary purpose has been screening for diseases like whooping cough.
“The swabs that we use ... these are nothing new,” she said. “This is something that we’ve always had. We’ve always kept these in supply.”
Clendenin is partnered with LabCorp, a private health care company, and is sending the swab samples to its lab for testing.
“So far, we’ve been told three to four days,” McLaughlin said about when results will come back. “But what we’ve been doing with patients if we have tested them, we told them to self-quarantine for at least four days.”
To keep people with COVID-19 symptoms out of the clinic’s main building, so other patients and employees aren’t exposed to infection, McLaughlin said she will walk to their car to conduct the swab.
But she said there are only six test kits remaining.
Michael Brumage, medical director of Cabin Creek Health Systems, which operates the Clendenin clinic and others in Kanawha County, said this is why testing is limited to just the people who meet the CDC requirements.
“What I don’t want to leave anybody with the impression with is that anybody who wants a test can come and get it,” he said. “They have to meet the guidelines.”
KC Lovin, Clendenin’s lead clinician, said the clinic has not yet received any provisions from the state, which means they’ve been limited to just the supply from LabCorp.
“We have limited access to testing material, which we are working to correct, but that is true across the state,” she said. “As soon as we have more testing material, we’re going to have a drive-thru test.”
Lovin said she has worked in Clendenin for 14 years. She said natural disasters over the years, such as the June 2016 flood, has prepared the community for times like these.
“We are pretty good about working on the fly,” Lovin said. “We are very resilient and we are very flexible.”
But the area is still reeling in some ways from the flood, Lovin said, which makes getting care to people who need it difficult.
“We still have people who are serially homeless. They live with Aunt Mary, they live with their mom, they live with their dad, they live with Uncle Tommy, because they don’t have a place to live yet because they’re still waiting on flood relief, and that was three years ago,” she said.
Lovin said even though people are now finding permanent housing, “it’s still a problem; and so that in itself creates more vectors and venues for diseases, including COVID-19.”
CAMC is testing, tooOn Chesterfield Avenue, near Charleston Area Medical Center Memorial Hospital in Kanawha City, a small clinic building is being used for drive-thru COVID-19 testing.
However, for one of these screenings, a physician must approve a patient before they can get tested, Dale Witte, a spokesman for CAMC said.
He said on Saturday that CAMC has been virtually screening patients, through an app, who report COVID-19 symptoms. If they meet the CDC guidelines and are approved for a test by a physician, then they may go to the drive-thru location.
“The purpose of it is to keep people out of the emergency rooms and waiting rooms and urgent cares,” Witte said.
From Saturday to Wednesday afternoon, Witte said, CAMC has sent 43 samples to be tested by state and private labs.