The approximately 300 employees of the Starr County Memorial Hospital have been tested for COVID-19 as the county hopes to get a full picture of who within the community has been affected by the coronavirus.
While none of the hospital employees displayed symptoms for the disease, they were all tested using the rapid tests that are used to determine whether an individual has antibodies caused by COVID-19 in their system.
Those who test positive are then referred to take the RT-PCR, or swab, test which would confirm whether or not the person is positive for COVID-19.
Of all the antibody tests that were administered to the employees, only 27 were positive. For those 27 people, 10 came back negative for COVID-19 through the swab test and the results of the remaining 17 are still pending, according to Dr. Jose Vazquez, the Starr County health authority and board president of Starr County Memorial Hospital.
Results of those swab tests have stalled, Vazquez said, because the contracted laboratory was inundated by positive cases from another state.
“They have not been able to upload the results from the swabs in the hospital,” Vazquez said. “So we are still pending (on) that.”
The testing for antibodies was done across the board, Vazquez said, and then those who were positive also took a swab test to ensure patients or other employees weren’t exposed.
“It’s not that it’s required,” he added, “CDC guidelines do not say that every positive antibody has to be swabbed.”
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prioritizes individuals showing symptoms of COVID-19 infection for the swab, or RT-PCR test, healthcare personnel do fall into the criteria of testing, Vazquez said.
“Even mild signs and symptoms (e.g., sore throat) of COVID-19 should be evaluated among potentially exposed healthcare personnel, due to their extensive and close contact with vulnerable patients in healthcare settings,” the CDC stated in its guidelines for “evaluating and testing persons” for the coronavirus disease.
The ramp up of testing in the community was previously highlighted by county officials as key to their ability to reopen businesses and more or less resume their regular operations. The more people that are tested, the better idea officials have of how many people have actually been infected or otherwise affected by COVID-19.
For testing among the general public, testing sites run by the Texas Military Department and the Texas Division of Emergency Management have sprung up throughout the county.
This weekend, one of those mobile testing sites conducted tests at La Casita Community Center on Saturday and more are scheduled to be at the parking lot of La Rosita Fire Department on Sunday and the Abel N. Gonzalez Jr. Community Center in San Isidro on Monday.
People who would like to make an appointment to be tested at one of those sites can call (512) 883-2400 or visit txcovidtest.org.
Last week, one of those sites was set up at the Roma Community Center to administer tests there for two days.
From those tests, one of a 20-year-old Roma man came back positive for COVID-19.
Currently, Starr County has seven active cases of the coronavirus disease. In total, they have had 14 confirmed cases.