We stand together – and apart

As part of Operation America Resolve last week, both Aitkin’s Riverwood Healthcare and Crosby’s Cuyuna Regional Medical Center received a flyover of F-16 jets. The event, planned for numerous points across the state, drew staff out of the building at Riverwood to record the event.

Riverwood Healthcare Center continues to offer testing for COVID-19 at its Aitkin and McGregor locations, but with limited supplies, has established priorities for testing.

Riverwood is giving priority for testing to those who have COVID-19-like symptoms and meet these criteria:

• Over age 65

• Living in or recently in congregate care (e.g. nursing homes, assisted living)

• Experiencing homelessness

• Dialysis patients

• Health care workers and/or their symptomatic family

• Have underlying medical conditions

• First responders

• Child care workers.

Testing is also available for those who are hospitalized, scheduled for surgical procedures and those who have had contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

Antibody testing, a laboratory blood test to assist with efforts to determine if someone has been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is not available at Riverwood at this time.

“We have had a lot of recent inquiries from local residents about antibody testing, so I’d like to share some information to help educate the public,” said Dr. David Taylor, Riverwood chief medical officer. “Without widespread COVID-19 illness in our community, the antibody test produces a lot of false positives and the results are not reliable. You can’t assume you have COVID-19 immunity if you get a positive test.

“At this point in the virus outbreak, on behalf of our Riverwood medical staff, we would not advise getting an antibody test to try to confirm whether you’ve had COVID-19 or not. The quality of antibody tests varies widely as well. If you want more information about your personal health and situation regarding testing, contact your health care provider.”

Gov. Tim Walz has said several times in the last few weeks that testing is key to reopening the state, as is contact tracing of known cases.

With tests still limited in the area, however, Taylor said prioritizing testing still had to happen.

“We will support contact tracing needs with our local public health officials as best we are able with limited test supplies,” Taylor said in email Friday. “For now, our priority for testing has to be those who are elderly or hospitalized, or who have chronic health conditions.”

The Minnesota Department of Health has specific concerns regarding the use of serological tests in the diagnosis and management of COVID-19 for the following reasons:

• Negative results do not rule out

SARS-CoV-2 infection, particularly in those who may be pre-symptomatic or immunocompromised.

• Positive results may be due to past or present infection with non-SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus strains; for example, representing cross-reactivity with other common non-COVID-19 human coronaviruses.

Results from antibody testing should not be used as the sole basis to diagnose or exclude SARS-CoV-2 infection or immunity for occupational or other purposes.

MDH is aware of reports of online scammers purporting to be test manufacturers offering rapid serology test kits that may be counterfeit or may be associated with malware.

To date, evidence is lacking on the utility of serological testing in the management of individual patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control also offers information on COVID-19 antibody testing at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/lab/serology-testing.html

For questions on symptoms and other factors around COVID-19, call Riverwood’s Coronavirus Helpline, 844-428-1323, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m., or the Minnesota Department of Health hotline at 651-201-3920, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

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