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COVID-19 testing in Kittson County

“We have not had any positive results come back from anybody that we have tested within our facility.”

That was the good news from Andrea Swenson, RN, director of clinic nursing at Kittson Healthcare when interviewed by way of email.

She said they have tested about 25 people at their clinics in Karlstad and Hallock and have been able to do so “almost since the pandemic reached the United States.”

“As soon as they were conducting testing in the state of Minnesota, we were able to send specimens to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). However, we have been limited by testing guidelines put forth by MDH regarding who we should test. This was mostly due to statewide shortages of testing supplies and to ensure those testing supplies remained available for the most high-risk populations. The laboratory at Sanford where we send our specimens to get developed also had criteria that needed to be met to get a timely result of that test.”

Asked how they decide whom to test, Swenson responded, “We follow testing criteria defined by MDH and Center for Disease Control (CDC). These guidelines have evolved through this pandemic, but there continue to be ‘prioritization’ to ensure the most high risk individuals get their test results as soon as possible. The MDH has recently provided guidance that all symptomatic patients can be tested. However, because there is still a shortage of testing supplies, we are not able to offer ‘swab only’ testing at this time. Testing at Kittson Healthcare is completed at the provider’s discretion in conjunction with an exam to ensure that the patient has symptoms consistent with COVID-19.”

“The provider will evaluate the symptoms of the patient. If the symptoms are consistent with suspected COVID-19, they will most likely swab the patient. Currently the CDC has the following symptoms listed on their website ( cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing or at least two of these symptoms: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell.”

Swenson said the test for the virus “is performed with a nasopharyngeal swab, which goes back into the nasopharynx (farther back into the nose than just the nostril). It’s the same type of test done for influenza.”

“As testing supplies become more available, we may be able to offer alternative methods of testing,” she added.

She said the time required to obtain results has varied, but usually takes from two to four days, or sometimes up to a week.

“The results are prioritized to ensure the most high risk individuals get their test results as soon as possible. For example, we will likely get results from a long-term care resident back sooner than we would get results of just a mildly ill patient with no underlying health conditions or other risk factors.”

Asked if she had any comments about the use of home testing kits, Swenson replied, “Although CDC states these will be available in most states, we have not received any information on the availability of these in Minnesota yet. Additionally, there have been several scams reported involving the false advertisement and sale of different kinds of tests that are not approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), so we would caution patients against the use of these unless you receive the information directly from your state health department or local provider.”

“We have been fortunate to have a fairly low number of patients that have met the criteria for testing since confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached our area in Northwestern Minnesota. Although we were limited with our ability to actually test for COVID-19 due to guidelines and availability of supplies, there were very few patients that needed to be denied testing because they didn’t meet the criteria,” concluded Swenson

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