Attention Readers: We're Back
C&G Newspapers is pleased to have resumed publication. For the time being, our papers will publish on a biweekly basis as we work toward our return to weekly papers. In between issues, and anytime, continue to find local news on our website and look for us on Facebook and Twitter.

As the rate of COVID-19 cases falls, testing becomes easier and more vital

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published May 26, 2020

 Many medical facilities have taken extra precautions to protect staff and patients alike during the COVID-19 pandemic, including moving specimen collection spaces into hallways or even outdoors, away from others.

Many medical facilities have taken extra precautions to protect staff and patients alike during the COVID-19 pandemic, including moving specimen collection spaces into hallways or even outdoors, away from others.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

 A full blood draw for antibodies is the most accurate way to detect a potential COVID-19 immunity, according to doctors at Emcura Medical in Bloomfield Township.

A full blood draw for antibodies is the most accurate way to detect a potential COVID-19 immunity, according to doctors at Emcura Medical in Bloomfield Township.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

Advertisement

OAKLAND COUNTY — Ah, COVID-19: the dangerous virus that you can carry without symptoms, transmit despite testing negative and, in some cases, recover without even knowing you had it.

The elusive illness that has brought the world to a halt has been widespread, yet we’re still not sure how many people have contracted the virus or how quickly it’s still moving through our communities.

The answers, according to the Oakland County Health Division, will come with testing.

Last week, the division announced it would expand its drive-thru testing services for all Oakland County residents, symptomatic or not.

When the virus first landed in metro Detroit, the county and most other health care providers offered limited testing to front-line responders only or those showing signs of the virus. With more supplies at the ready, County Executive David Coulter said, any adult over the age of 18 can make an appointment to be tested at one of the three locations: Southfield, Pontiac or Novi.

“We all know how important it is for our economy that our residents start working again and our companies and businesses re-engage,” Coulter said in a press release. “But we also know we’re not in the clear yet. As more people return to work, we need to be vigilant and mindful that the coronavirus is still with us. … We need to keep our guard up.”

As of May 20, the Oakland County Health Division has tested 4,844 individuals at its drive-thru sites, 249 of whom tested positive — that’s a rate of 5%. Public health experts want to see a test positivity rate below 10%.

For being such an important test, it’s pretty quick and easy, according to Deborah Weiss, of West Bloomfield. She said she contacted her doctor several weeks ago when breathing caused pain and tightness in her chest. She was directed to a testing site in her neighborhood.

“It was no big deal,” she said. “I was nervous because of what I’ve read and heard, but it’s very fast.”

The COVID-19 test is done with a sample from the cavity between the nose and mouth. To get there, an approximately 6-inch-long swab is inserted into a nostril and rotated at the back of the cavity. Painful? Not really. Invasive and uncomfortable? A little bit. Patients are warned the swab could cause brief coughing, gagging or watery eyes.

“They go up high, but it’s fast. They’ve got it down like a machine,” Weiss said. “The nurse asked me to take my mask off, keep my head facing forward, and bingo — done.”

The test was done on a Friday afternoon, and by the following Monday, she had the results. She was negative for COVID-19. Her doctor postulated that her breathing troubles were caused by asthma, a condition she had in her youth and that was likely reactivated during this spring’s particularly heavy pollen count.

“Don’t hesitate. I wouldn’t hesitate at all to get the test,” she advised.

Weiss later got the COVID-19 antibody test. too, just to be extra sure she hadn’t contracted the virus previously.

The antibody test is a blood test administered optimally at least four weeks after a suspected infection, sometimes via a finger prick and other times with a full intravenous draw, which yields more accurate results. The sample tests for the immunoglobulin antibody unique to the virus. The antibodies would be left behind once the virus entered a person’s bloodstream and their immune system defeated the intruder. The antibodies are considered a kind of instruction manual for a person’s cells, so next time the virus comes around, their body will know exactly how it can be vanquished.

“It was a really bad cold and flu season, so some people might think they had (COVID-19). The test we do has a 99% specificity rate, and there have been very few false positives,” said Dr. Manish Kesliker, of Emcura Medical in Bloomfield Township.

The clinic on Maple Road has performed more than 1,500 COVID-19 and antibody tests, and there have been “quite a few positives,” Kesliker said. The good news is there were more positive test results early on in the crisis, and they seem to have slowed a bit.

“Hopefully, that means the lockdown is working,” he said. “We want to get closer to that goal of herd immunity. If we’re only seeing a 5% positivity rate on antibody tests, we’re in for a long stretch of social distancing.”

Now that testing is available to all residents in the county at Health Division centers and at some private medical facilities, the goal is to test as many folks as possible. When a patient tests positive for the virus, not only are they appropriately medically treated, but they’re quarantined to mitigate the spread of the illness. People they’ve come into close contact with are also notified so they can get tested.

But we shouldn’t all flock to a testing site immediately. To keep things running efficiently, and most importantly, safely, patients should call their health care provider or the Oakland County Health Division in advance and make an appointment for their drive-thru exam.

“We’re scheduling people, and we’ll have online booking soon, but we wanted to take away some of the limitations there have been to getting tested and getting information,” Kesliker said. “We counsel patients on positive results and on negative results, too, and remind them about the importance of (personal protective equipment) and social distancing. We wanted to help in our own way. We’ve always wanted to do what’s right for our community, and as health care providers, it feels good to do what we can.”


Those interested in being tested for COVID-19 with the Oakland County Health Division should make an appointment through the Nurse on Call hotline at (800) 848-5533. Results may take at least three days. No doctor’s note or prescription is needed, and there is no fee.

Advertisement