SITKA – On Tuesday, April 7, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Incident Command System (ICS) announced the pending arrival of several COVID-19 rapid test machines from the medical equipment manufacturer Abbott. Each machine is accompanied by approximately 45 testing kits and will be available in seven SEARHC communities in the coming days, allowing for same-day, in-house COVID-19 test results.
Providers in the communities of Sitka, Juneau, Wrangell, Klawock, Haines, Hoonah and Kake will be the first to receive rapid test machines, with Angoon and other communities to follow as additional units become available. With only a limited number of kits currently on hand, SEARHC Medical Directors have implemented strict guidelines to ensure rapid tests are utilized in only the most timely and essential situations. Prioritizing use of the Abbott rapid test is ultimately at the discretion of the site Medical Director, but criteria is in place to include situations that limit the spread of COVID among community members at high-risk for severe illness, such as a long-term care, nursing home, or assisted living. In addition, instances that improve safety of healthcare workers, and availability of critical staff and supplies, may be prioritized as well.
“SEARHC leadership is excited to add rapid response testing to our available resources during the pandemic,” said SEARHC Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elliot Bruhl. “The ability to produce fast test results in-house will be extremely valuable as we work to protect our high-risk populations, as well as ensure staff on the front lines are safe and available to provide care.”
Patients who do not meet the rapid test criteria, but meet the symptomatic guidelines for a COVID-19 test, will be tested by SEARHC providers with either the State Lab or the private LabCorp receiving the cultures, depending on which facility has the quickest turn-around time at the time of testing (typically 24-48 hours). Due to known community spread of COVID-19 in our region, tests are currently available to all patients exhibiting a fever and cough, or shortness of breath, regardless of travel or exposure history.
For more information on test availability, including alternative test site locations and contact information for the SEARHC provider in your community, visit covid19.searhc.org or call the SEARHC COVID-19 Hotline at 907.966.8799.