Greenwood County Commissioners Discussed Close Contact Tracing

Emergency Management Director Levi Vinson reported that following the opening of the County’s free COVID-19 testing facility, Public Health Nurse Vicki Lindsey-Ross was looking to determine testing procedures. Vinson noted that individuals from the local health community are interested in following CDC recommendations pertaining to the screening of asymptomatic carriers. Vinson noted that it is recommended that all close contact individuals be tested to avoid the potential spread by asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals (carriers that have an illness but experience a lag in displaying symptoms). As the Board of Health for Greenwood County, Vinson stated that he wanted to know commissioners’ thoughts on the matter. In the past, individuals had to display symptoms to be tested.

“With National average of 40% of people being asymptomatic, it’s easy to believe that there’s a lot of people running around that are asymptomatic and we don’t know about it because of our testing strategy,” said Vinson. He noted that current data shows that 4% of cases in Greenwood County have been asymptomatic. “We know there’s more out there. It could be theorized that a lot of the spread is probably from people that don’t know they have it. Which makes sense, because, if you are sick, you are probably going to stay home,” said Vinson. Vinson told commissioners that, from March until now, 1,200 people have been tested at Greenwood County Hospital. The recent positivity rate for Greenwood County, according to Vinson, has been between 40 and 60 percent. Vinson stated that he thought this figure was “artificially high” due to the county only testing symptomatic people. Vinson noted that the average for this figure is between 12 and 20 percent. “Our positivity rate, if you compare it to everywhere else, is the highest in the country and we know that’s not true, that’s just because we are only testing sick people,” said Vinson.

Questions were posed regarding an entire household being tested, in the event one person tests positive. Vinson noted that this would aid in contact tracing. He stated that some individuals are unable to pinpoint where they contracted the illness from, because they had only been in close contact with members of their family. Vinson noted that this could be due to an immediate family member being asymptomatic. Commissioners then questioned about the type of test being completed at the county facility. Vinson stated that each nostril of the nose is swabbed, noting that the machine has a 94 percent effective rate. According to Vinson, this type of testing does not reach as far into the nasal passageway as the Nasopharyngeal test, however, in his opinion, the latter produces greater accuracy. As commissioners continued discussion pertaining to an individual family and testing each member Vinson stated, “Far too many times, I feel like there’s people that should be quarantined that aren’t.” He noted that answers to questions posed within a phone call from the Health Department play a part in determining whether or not some individuals must quarantine. He then noted that recent House Bill 2016 gives members of the public the right to deny giving the Health Department information when they call. Vinson stated that he feels asymptomatic individuals are perpetuating the spread of COVID-19 and the County was not doing well at combating that. Vinson noted that this was why Lindsey-Ross was looking for the opinion of board of health (Commissioners) in regards to expanding the testing beyond just symptomatic people. Ballard stated that he felt testing close contacts who are quarantining was redundant. He noted if one person tests positive in a meeting the rest of the people in the room are quarantined and have been in quarantine, they should not have to be tested unless they want peace of mind. He then referenced data collection as the benefit, noting that being tested for the virus is invasive. Commissioner Chuck Spradlin stated that collecting data is done in an effort to regulate the asymptomatic.

 

 

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