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As Idaho COVID cases rise, so does demand for tests

As Idaho's confirmed COVID cases continues to rise, more and more people are seeking out tests. Demand is now leading to delays.

BOISE, Idaho — With a spike in positive COVID cases around the Treasure Valley came a spike in people wanting to be tested for coronavirus.

Dr. Mark Nassir, President of Saint Alphonsus Medical Group, explains what they are seeing firsthand.

“At Saint Alphonsus we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the testing requirement and in the demand in the community. It’s really been an exponential growth over the last two to three weeks,” said Nassir. “That is now stressing the system. The hospital system, the lab system, the entire system. Just that increase in demand is definitely being felt.”

When the pandemic initially hit Idaho back in March and April, testing was in high demand. Heading into May and the summer months though, Dr. Nassir explains there was a lull in demand.

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“Correlating with a better understanding of the virus and a better understanding of what to do and really a low incidence in our community,” said Nassir.

More recently though, over the last three weeks, things changed.

“We're five or 10 times the amount of patients that are requesting testing now than were previously,” said Nassir.  

Because of that, medical groups have to go back to deciding who gets priority for a COVID test.

For example, St. Luke’s says they are looking to test people with symptoms and exposure. Beyond that they say,

“Due to limited testing capacity and supplies, we are currently unable to accommodate asymptomatic testing under any other circumstances. This includes common requests from asymptomatic patients for pre-employment, return-to-work, or travel purposes. We are working with community partners to identify alternate pathways for these patients.

St. Luke’s still does an average of 800 to 1,200 tests per day right now.

Dr. Nassir says the situation is very similar at Saint Alphonsus.  A Facebook post from Monday afternoon sums that up.

READ MORE: COVID-19 related hospitalizations continue to rise in Idaho, many under 50

Generally, people not showing symptoms who were not exposed to COVID will have to wait for a test. They are looking to test high priority people.  

“Any patient with symptoms consistent for coronavirus, any at-risk patient with any significant exposure, certainly would qualify,” said Nassir.

Getting a test is one step, getting your results is another.

For a while, Dr. Nassir says test results were coming in much faster than in early April.

“Once we got the processes going smoothly we had been able to get our turnaround times down to the 2-3 day time frame,” said Nassir.

That time frame more recently was more than a week for some cases, now teams are working across different departments to speed that up the best they can.

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“We’ve been able to bring that back down and our goal is to get back to that much quicker turnaround time. Under five days and ideally down to that few day turnaround time,” said Nassir.

The goal at Saint Alphonsus is to ramp testing back up once things slow down.

“As we are able to collaborate and partner and get ahead we can perhaps continue to expand that testing to where we had it for the last couple months, which has been open testing for any indication for any person that desires it,” said Nassir.  

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