SVHC Opens Pop-Up PCR Testing for COVID-19
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SVHC Opens Pop-Up PCR Testing for COVID-19

BENNINGTON, VT—July 14, 2020—A sudden increase in the number of positive antigen tests for COVID-19 in the Manchester region has prompted Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) to stand up a COVID-19 pop-up site offering PCR tests. In partnership with the Town of Manchester and Riley Rink, the SVHC pop-up site will open Wednesday, July 15 for drive-up testing between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and remain open as many days as necessary. Once patient volume subsides, the pop-up testing location will transition to the SVMC Northshire Campus in Manchester. The clinic is part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC) and Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC).

“This outbreak is a serious situation that requires prompt action,” said Trey Dobson, MD, SVMC’s chief medical officer. “Today, we have more knowledge than at the beginning of the pandemic. We are better prepared for outbreaks, and keeping people safe to get them back to their life after a sufficient quarantine and appropriate treatment.”

Testing results will be made available to the Vermont Department of Health so that they can use it to guide their decision-making, contact tracing and distribution of messaging to the public.

On Monday, local reports indicated more than 30 positive antigen tests for COVID-19 in Manchester, Vermont, and its surrounding towns. On Tuesday, during Governor Phil Scott’s regular press conference, Vermont’s Commissioner of Health Dr. Mark Levine confirmed the reports. He shared that antigen test results, like those used to detect the local cases, are less reliable than PCR tests, which are necessary for reporting purposes. Both those who have had a positive antigen test and those whose antigen test was negative are encouraged to get a PCR test.

PCR tests are available at two locations tomorrow: As many as 300 tests will be administered at a Vermont Department of Health Pop-Up Testing event at Flood Brook School on 91 VT Route 11 in Londonderry beginning at 9 a.m. and Southwestern Vermont Health Care’s Pop-Up Testing Site at Riley Rink on 410 Hunter Park Road. Those who attend the SVMC pop-up testing event in Manchester should bring this completed form with them, if possible. The test is covered by insurance. The cost of the test for uninsured patients will be covered through a government program. 

Testing at the hospital in Bennington has not changed. A referral is required. 

PCR tests rely on genetic material from the virus to produce a positive result. They are typically processed at the state lab and are a very accurate reflection of whether an infection is present. Antigen tests are not as accurate for determining an active infection. In fact, the state does not record positive antigen tests as positive cases. Instead, they require those who have had a positive antigen test to get a PCR test. Even those who get a negative result from an antigen test should be tested with a PCR test, approximately 7 days after exposure, to be sure they are negative. Waiting 7 days after the exposure is important to avoid a false negative result, which is likely when patients are tested too early.

“We anticipate that confirmed positive cases will increase substantially over the next several days,” Dobson said. “We are working hard to ensure the most accurate test is available for patients. We need all of the information we can get and everyone’s cooperation to limit the impact.”

Hospital officials are encouraging everyone to practice social distancing, limit travel and unnecessary trips outside their homes, wear a mask when in public, and wash and sanitize their hands frequently.

“If everyone distanced, masked, and washed, we would see very few positive cases,” Dobson said. “Easing up on these very important aspects of controlling the virus puts everyone at risk.”

Those who think they may have been exposed, especially if they have been closer than 6 feet for 10 minutes or more to someone who has tested positive, are encouraged to self-quarantine. To quarantine means staying home and monitoring symptoms for 14 days. If exposure is confirmed, the affected person will hear from a contact tracer, who will recommend testing and self-isolation. More information about what to expect from a contact tracer can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/contact-tracing/contact-tracing-plan/contact-tracing.html and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/notification-of-exposure.html.

Those who are positive for COVID-19, whether or not they have symptoms, will be directed to self-isolate from the community and others in your household for at least 10 days, plus 72 hours after any fever has subsided without the use of fever-reducing medications. They should remain in separate rooms most of the time, use a separate bathroom, if possible, and wear masks and gloves when in the same room. More detailed information is available here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/10Things.pdf.

“COVID-19 is deadly for some who get it and very disruptive to most others,” Dobson said. “Please do not travel outside our area or go to indoor parties, where social distancing is difficult. The most important way to care for our communities right now is by behaving in ways that reduce the spread.”

Questions can be directed to svhealthcare.org/covid-19 or to the COVID-19 Informational Hotline at 802-440-8844. Note that SVMC staff cannot provide patient information to hotline callers. The best source of information for monitoring COVID-19 in local communities is the Vermont Department of Health Website, https://www.healthvermont.gov/response/coronavirus-covid-19/current-activity-vermont. The site posts the COVID-19 activity in each town, including new confirmed cases. It is updated every day.

About SVHC:
Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) is a comprehensive, preeminent, health care system providing exceptional, convenient, and affordable care to the communities of Bennington and Windham Counties of Vermont, eastern Rensselaer and Washington Counties of New York, and northern Berkshire County in Massachusetts. SVHC includes Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC), Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center, the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation, and the SVHC Foundation. SVMC includes 25 primary and specialty care practices.

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center provides exceptional care without discriminating on the basis of an individual’s age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, language, physical or mental disability, socioeconomic status, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. Language assistance services, free of charge, are available at 1-800-367-9559.

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