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Increased COVID-19 testing brings new challenges to health department

Health officials say with the data they have received, the surge should not last as long as the others.
COVID testing sites are seeing a huge increase in patients, causing longer wait times for tests and other issues.
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 7:18 PM CST
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - COVID cases are on the rise in Wichita County, and they’ve also caused a significant increase in COVID testing.

“Typically someone waits about 1-2 days before symptoms start, then they go to their medical provider,” Amy Fagan, Assistant Health Director at the Wichita Falls - Wichita County Public Health District said. “That medical provider sometimes sends a wafer test or do them in-house, then it is 1-3 days. By the time we receive those, it is 24-48 hours later.”

This is the process of getting tested for covid-19 if it is not an at-home test or a rapid test. With COVID testing on the rise, the health department is facing new challenges in getting the results back to patients before the quarantine period is over.

“The challenge for us has really been as we have moved from the 10-day to the 5-day guidelines,” Fagan said. “There are limitations in terms of time frame by which we can call those individuals, and typically we are out of that 5-day time frame.”

Health officials say the CDC changed its guidelines because the new variant does not stay in a person’s system as long as the original COVID-19 strain.

“We are seeing a shorter time frame for people to be sick, so it is not lasting as long and the symptoms seem to be milder in most people,” Fagan said.

Fagan says although this is good news, it has put the health department in a bind. With the rise in COVID testing and the limitations on being able to get the results back within the 5 day period, they have had to hire more people to keep up.

“Typically we have 7 case investigators who work to handle our average caseload,” Fagan said. “In the last 2-3 weeks we have added on about 8 other people.”

Health officials say their new challenge should not last long. With the data they have received about the Omicron variant, it looks like the surge will end as quickly as it began.

“The evidence and data that we are seeing out of South Africa gives us good hope that although we are seeing a significant increase in the number of cases over a short period of time, we will see a subsequent decrease in that same kind of way where it falls off pretty quickly,” Fagan said.

As of now all COVID testing sites in Wichita County have enough supplies, waiting times to get tested might just take a little longer. You can learn more and find where the testing sites are by clicking here.

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