What to expect when you need to get tested for COVID-19 in Calhoun County

·3 min read

As Calhoun County experiences a record-breaking surge of COVID-19, getting tested for the virus is becoming more challenging.

Tests are available by appointment at local pharmacies, including Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS, but scheduling a time slot can take several days, according to the pharmacies' websites.

Testing fees are dependent on insurance, though both Walgreens and Rite Aid are offering free testing. Some testing locations may ask to see an insurance card to bill an insurance provider for the cost of the test.

Grace Health also is working with Bronson Hospital to provide on-site, appointment-only, drive-thru COVID-19 tests and testing during patient appointments, as needed.

"Grace Health is seeing an increase in COVID testing needs," said Diane Craig, a spokesperson for Grace Health in an email.

The health care provider is also working on a plan to provide a limited number of at-home testing kits to patients and community members and is expecting at-home testing kits to become available in the near future.

To schedule an appointment, people can call Grace Health at (269) 965-8866.

Bronson also is working with patients to find testing for people who have symptoms or those who are asymptomatic and meet certain requirements. More information about testing requirements at Bronson are available through the hospital's website.

Homer Public Library is also distributing at-home rapid antigen tests through a partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Last week, the library received 300 COVID-19 at-home test kits, and more kits will be shipped to the library as needed, according to the state.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also is working with Albion College to provide free COVID-19 testing at the Washington Gardner building, located at 401 E. Michigan Ave. in Albion. Appointments are available at the clinic on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

There are several types of COVID-19 tests. Most common are rapid antigen test and PCR tests, Calhoun County Medical Director Dr. William Nettleton said.

If people test positive on a rapid antigen test, Nettleton said that they very likely have a current COVID-19 infection.

"I often hear a lot of 'Well, should we confirm with a PCR rest or molecular test with a positive antigen test?' It's really not necessary," he said. "If you have symptoms, you've been exposed to someone with COVID-19 — we know that COVID-19 is just so prevalent right now that if you're positive on a rapid antigen test, at this point in time, you have a current COVID-19 infection."

If people test negative with an antigen test, it may be worth confirming with an additional test, Nettleton said, particularly if a person has symptoms or has recently been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

"Consider retesting with an antigen test or a PCR test 24 to 48 hours after that initial test," he said. "Not enough time may have gone by for the virus to be detected or how the inside of the nose was swabbed can affect the test results, too."

Testing should be done within the first five days of having symptoms, Nettleton said, which improves the test's accuracy.

Despite the difficulty of finding testing right now, Nettleton said it was important for Calhoun County to increase the amount of testing being done.

"More testing helps us reduce spread," he said. "It informs folks to isolate if they're infected, quarantine if they've been exposed, and the sooner we know you're infected with COVID-19, the sooner your doctor can get you into treatment."

The state has a search tool on its website to help people find testing sites in the area. For those willing to drive, there are same-day testing sites available outside of Calhoun County that don't require an appointment.

Free at-home COVID-19 test kits are also available for order through the federal government. Every residence can get four tests for free by going to covidtests.gov. Tests are expected to begin shipping later this month.

Contact reporter Elena Durnbaugh at (517) 231-9501 or edurnbaugh@lsj.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ElenaDurnbaugh.

This article originally appeared on Battle Creek Enquirer: What to expect when you need a COVID-19 test in Calhoun County

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