BY SUZANNE ELLIOTT AND BEN CONLEY
WVU Medicine said it should establish COVID-19 testing sites in Morgantown, Bridgeport, Martinsburg, Parkersburg and Wheeling over the next few days.
“We are working rapidly to develop our own, in-house testing through our network of WVU Medicine labs as well as partnering with Quest Diagnostics to receive COVID-19 testing kits,” a WVU Medicine spokesperson said.
“Once the sites are operational, we will communicate that information both internally and externally to at-risk patients who require testing and for which an order is placed.”
To date, West Virginia is the only state not to have a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 people have tested negative for the virus in the state as of Monday. Results are still pending for four cases.
Dr. Lee Smith, executive director of the Monongalia County Health Department, said most of the testing kits used in the state come from the CDC, but that will change.
“There are more that are coming and we are hoping that by maybe Friday we’ll have additional testing, because some of the private companies are gearing up for that,” he said. “I understand that Johns Hopkins has developed their own test. The Mayo Clinic has their own test. Roche Pharmaceuticals has a test and then the CDC has a test. So we have several different avenues, but the one we’re using the most of right now, because we can get it done here in state, is the state laboratory services.”
To test for the virus, a swab is taken of the inside of a person’s mouth. It typically takes six hours to get the results, Smith said. As of right now, all coronavirus testing is being done in Charleston.
Smith said there is a shortage of test kits in West Virginia because there is a much higher demand in other areas of the country, such as the state of Washington. The state also has less than two million people and a lot of people in the state don’t travel overseas.
Still, according to a report Sunday by the New York Times, based on information by the Kaiser Family Foundation, West Virginia has a greater share of adults at risk than any other state in the country, because it has an older population with underlying health conditions such as diabetes. It also has the highest share of smokers of any other state, the article said.
Symptoms of the illness, which is considered more infectious than the flu, typically show up within two days to two weeks of exposure and include shortness of breath, fever and a cough. Deaths from COVID-19 are caused by acute respiratory distress. Unlike the flu, which has been around for 2,000 years, the novel coronavirus is only three months old.
People who suspect they may have contracted COVID-19 are being asked to call ahead to their health care provider. Both WVU Medicine and Mon Health have set up phone lines for people to call if they have a flu-like or respiratory illness. WVU Medicine’s phone number is 304-597-6000, option 4. Mon Health patients can call 304-285-3798 to schedule a time to be evaluated.