Dr. Rai talks rapid testing availability, lab capacity, waiting for appointments

Published: Sep. 24, 2020 at 5:14 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - One of the biggest questions health care providers are continually answering involves testing.

Who should get tested and when? When are we going to have rapid tests widely available? Why are results taking such varying times to get back?

We talked testing with Prevea president and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai to get the answers.

“Our county is out of control right now,” says Dr. Rai, referring to the surge in cases in Brown County.

As case numbers soar, he wants people to understand who should get tested to make sure they are.

The same messaging still exists. Get tested if you’re symptomatic or a known exposure. Period.

Dr. Rai says anyone who wants a test should be able to get one within 24 hours, but you may have to drive a bit.

“The United States' infrastructure on testing is woefully lagging,” he says. “We should be testing so much more than we are today, but it really is a resource limit situation. In the state of Wisconsin, we have the capacity to do a lot of testing, but just because you have lab capacity, doesn’t mean you can get a test right away, because, remember, it takes staff to be able to do that. It takes the supplies.”

That’s the source of some delays in simply finding an open appointment to get tested. Dr. Rai says Prevea, for instance, only receives testing kits once a week, usually between 4,500 and 7,000.

Getting results is sometimes delayed because tests still have to be driven to a lab. Once there, they are usually turned around in one to three days.

“It’s getting the person swabbed, getting it recorded in a medical record, getting staff to do that, getting that swab to a lab and getting a result back to a patient. There’s a lot of steps involved. The lab is kind of like that last step,” says Dr. Rai.

So how long before we have rapid tests available?

Dr. Rai says Prevea is starting to use rapid tests this week on patients with bold symptoms, then comparing them to the results from the regular testing to better gauge just how accurate they are.

He’s hopeful they’ll be more accessible within the month, but a lot depends on the surge in cases and where health care providers can focus their attention and resources.

“You have to understand the entire community is in a crisis situation right now, with how many people are sick in the hospital and all that, the priorities right now... we’re trying to control that situation,” says Dr. Rai.

He also says people who’ve been in close contact with someone who’s positive -- within six feet for a total of 15 minutes in one day, even in several small time increments -- should be tested and then isolate at home until results are back. He stresses that means avoiding even a quick trip into a store until test results are returned.

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