BOISE, Idaho — Editor's note: The above video is about the Crush the Curve plan to increase testing for coronavirus in Idaho.
A local nonprofit has obtained enough COVID-19 and and coronavirus antibody tests to offer testing to anyone, even if that person does not have any symptoms or known exposure.
Tommy Ahlquist M.D., a former ER doctor and the current CEO of BVA Development, described the testing as a pathway to help get Idahoans back to work safely, once the stay-at-home order is lifted. Ahlquist founded Crush the Curve Idaho, a coordinated effort by Idaho businesses, innovators, and leaders to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The mission of the group is to make testing widely available to Idahoans, and now they have announced they have secured thousands of tests. They say widespread testing could help businesses and companies in the fight against the spread of the virus on the job site.
COVID-19 testing and antibody testing will be available to anyone at select Saltzer Health Medical Group testing sites in the Treasure Valley. TO be tested, you must first take the assessment at the Crush the Curve website.
For under $100, anyone who has symptoms, or is sick, can schedule online and be tested for COVID-19 by medical partners in the Treasure Valley and around the state. They will also work with your insurance, and help with the cost for those who can't afford it may be available through Crush the Curve Idaho.
If you feel healthy and you are showing no symptoms, but you want to be tested for antibodies to see if you've had the virus, or for asymptomatic COVID-19, register online at Crush the Curve Idaho, and you will go to the Ten Mile Crossing testing location in Meridian. Tents will be set up in the parking lot where the testing will take place.
Ahlquist says they are partnering with Ryan Cole, M.D. of Cole Diagnostics, a lab in the Treasure Valley. He says the accuracy for the antibody test is 96.7%. The test has not yet been approved by the FDA, but it is in line for approval now. Ahlquist says it's only a matter of time. The tests are being processed in fully certified commercial out of state labs with 24-48 hour results. Crush the Curve Idaho is working on finding in-state options that would help with the cost off shipping, and shorten that window.
Crush the Curve Idaho will also arrange onsite mobile testing units to companies to offer testing to their employees as they return to work, and outline best practices for building owners to keep work spaces safe and healthy.
Ahlquist says the nonprofit has been in contact with the state and will share data with health experts and leaders.
For more information on this effort, and the cost structure of testing, click here.
(NOTE: Right now, scheduling for testing is available in the Treasure Valley, it will become available at other sites around the state in the coming days.)
North Nampa Site - 9850 W St Luke's Dr, Nampa, ID 83687
South Nampa Site - 215 E Hawaii Ave, Nampa, ID 83686
Ten Mile Crossing (mobile testing site) - 2929 W Navigator Dr, Meridian, ID 83642 (This site is for antibody testing, and COVID-19 testing for those without symptoms. Testing begins April 20.)
Jorgensen Spine Institute - (Saltzer Urgent Care Clinic)
360 E Montvue Dr #100, Meridian, ID 83642
Mountain View Hospital:
Idaho Falls Site - 2325 Coronado St, Idaho Falls, ID 83404
St. Joseph Regional Medical Center:
Lewiston Site - 415 6th St, Lewiston, ID 83501
Coeur d'Alene Site - 2003 Kootenai Health Way, Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814
Idaho COVID-19 latest: Latest news | Map of confirmed Idaho cases | Stay-at-home order details | COVID-19 resources | Testing sites | Employers hiring | Essential business list | Closings | School closings | Help nonprofits| Golf info | Full COVID-19 coverage
Ahlquist sat down with KTVB's Maggie O'Mara to talk about the testing and why he thinks it is important. Read a portion of the interview below:
TOMMY AHLQUIST: "We have secured enough testing that we can offer COVID-19 PCR testing to anyone who needs it, and we also have enough tests now to start offering antibody testing. It's really a combination of both, as we get back to work, knowing who had it, who has it, who are those silent carriers that might have had it, How are we going to navigate the future going forward? Because as you know Maggie, we don't have a vaccine yet."
MAGGIE O'MARA: "Tell me why this is so important for the state of Idaho? To get us all back to work, why is this the key?"
TOMMY AHLQUIST: "You have friends, family members - people with businesses who are completely paralyzed by this, wondering 'what do I do?' The stimulus came quickly and is going to be helpful, but what really needs to happen is get everyone back to work and get those unemployment numbers down, and get people back to their livelihoods so they can take care of their families. We needed to do the right thing, we absolutely needed to do the right thing to flatten that curve, crush that curve."
"Now, it's how do we get back? But, we have got to realize that the next bump of COVID-19 will come, hopefully it's not until the fall. We need to get ready for that, and the way we get ready for that is going to be through testing, the way we go back to work is going to be testing, and we need to be ready next time."
MAGGIE O'MARA: "Tommy, how did you secure all these tests, when it's hard for states to get even the COVID-19 tests? How have you secured both types of tests? The antibody test?"
TOMMY AHLQUIST: "We got on the phone with our friends in Utah and said 'how did you do it?' We followed their pathway. We've just secured relationships with labs that have capacity. Here in the valley we will have two testing centers for COVID 19 and you can just show up and be tested, and we'll have another testing site for antibodies."
"The test for COVID 19 is a nasal swab, there is a saliva test coming out too, it goes in a tube, and then they run it through what they call a PCR machine. The antibody test is a blood test. It looks in your blood, in your body, to see if you have developed immunity or antibodies against COVID 19."
MAGGIE O'MARA: "Is the testing free? I think a lot of people are asking - can I afford it?"
TOMMY AHLQUIST: "We will work with insurance companies, and for people that just want to know, we're going to try to offer a cash price that's going to be truly at cost. It's just going to be cost of collection and cost to run that kit. Crush the Curve Idaho is a nonprofit, so we have donations coming in so that we can help cover the costs of people who can't afford it. So, it will be a combination of working with insurance companies because this changes so quickly, having cash prices for people who need it, and having employers who say, 'hey, I'll pay 100 bucks to have my people tested, because to me it's important to know if we can get back to work or not.' We've had 77 companies reach out to us, and say 'help us, test us.'"
MAGGIE O'MARA: "Who should be tested?"
TOMMY AHLQUIST: "We need to have testing for everyone. What happens if we go back to work in a couple weeks and we have an outbreak in a food processing plant or a millwork plant? We need to get right on it and test everyone and isolate them so we don't have community spread, so that we don't get into the same situation that we are in now."
"We just can't afford for that to happen again to the economy, or for just the well-being and health of the people that we love. We just need to all work together while we wait for the vaccine to come out. We are a ways off from that. There's a long time that this is going to be our new normal of how we live our lives."
For more information, click here.
At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.
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