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Testing a plus for St. C.

We know by now that testing is a key component in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has become quite clear that the ability to test many people for the coronavirus and to obtain prompt results helps slow the spread of the disease. By identifying positive cases of the illness, health officials are able to advise those individuals to avoid contact with others, thus limiting the number of people who contract it by being around them.

That is why it is good news that the city of St. Clairsville was able to obtain 220 rapid test kits for use by its employees. Purchased from Bero Labs, the tests cost $30 apiece for a total investment of $6,600 in state-provided funding. Another $7,000 has been set aside to pay a nurse practitioner to administer the tests. That adds up to $13,600 — a relatively small price to pay for some peace of mind.

Mayor Katheryn Thalman has said the tests produce results in about 10 minutes as opposed to the more standard three to seven days. And the lab told her they are 94 percent accurate, though false positives do sometimes occur.

Forty of the tests were immediately given to the Cumberland Trail Fire District, since its employees are at relatively high risk of coming into contact with infected individuals.

“Right now it’s to keep the essential workers running … ,” the mayor said. “We’ve had three employees out this week that are suspected of having been around COVID. 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.”

That sounds like good news indeed, and it is wise for the city to have a medical professional administer the tests. Obviously any tools that can help protect both city employees and the members of the public who interact with them is a valuable resource at this challenging time.

Still, city leaders should proceed with an abundance of caution. Much remains to be learned about the virus, and testing and treatments have a long way to go before then can be considered to be perfected.

Current knowledge indicates that infected individuals may not test positive immediately after they are exposed to and contract the coronavirus. And while it is known that these particular tests can produce false positives, every single positive case that is identified by one of these rapid tests should be treated as if it is a true, confirmed positive. Any employee who tests positive should be removed from the workplace immediately and sent for additional follow-up testing.

Kudos to city officials for being proactive in the battle against COVID-19. We urge them to use all of the tools at their disposal — and to do so wisely.

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