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Virus testing kits to help keep St. C. workers on the job

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Rapid COVID-19 testing is available for city employees and emergency responders with a focus on avoiding long quarantine periods.

“We just started training on them and distributing them this week,” Mayor Katheryn Thalman said, adding that the city obtained 220 rapid test kits from Bero Lab.

The cost was $30 per kit, paid with state funds, for a total of $6,600. Another $7,000 also has been put aside for a nurse practitioner to administer the tests, paid a set amount per test.

“I happened to know some lab people because of my former work experience — I worked as a lab representative. I got in touch with someone I knew, and he put me in touch with the right person and he got me some discounts,” Thalman said. “I was happy to get them at all. They were in short supply.”

She said the rapid test kits require a nasal swab to collect a sample, which is then exposed to a reagent for a quick reaction indicating a positive or negative result.

“It’s a 10-minute test as opposed to three to seven days,” the mayor said. “What the lab has told me is that they are 94 percent accurate.”

Occasional false positives do occur, though. Thalman said the protocol in the event of a positive test is to obtain a PCR test, which detects the virus’ genetic material.

She said 40 of the rapid test kits have been given to the Cumberland Trail Fire District for first responders. Some also have been given to the police department and to municipal workers. Other kits have been made available to the city schools, although most area schools are using remote learning through the Thanksgiving holiday or beyond.

“If we can get more in, we’ll try to make it so the general public can come in, but right now the fire department, every time they go out on a call they may have to do a rapid test to see if they were exposed to someone, so I’m expecting the fire department and the school to go through them pretty quickly. It just depends on how much contaminant they think they’ve been around,” she said.

“Right now it’s to keep the essential workers running,” Thalman said. “It depends on how many people think they need tested — a first responder might need tested every day because of the number of people they’re around. Somebody in our office would only need it once a week because they’re not around people. … It depends on their contact radius. So we don’t know how long they’ll last.”

She said the coronavirus has made an impact on city workers.

“We’ve had three employees out this week that are suspected of having been around COVID,” Thalman said. “One just found out she was negative, but it took a week to get the results back. … This rapid test, if they get a negative, they can come right back to work.”

The Ohio National Guard will also be making free COVID-19 testing available to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today in the Ohio University Eastern parking lot. People waning teste should enter the campus from U.S. 40.

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