TYLER, Minn. (KELO) — More than 400 individuals were tested July 15 in a mass coronavirus testing event in Tyler, Minnesota, said Stacy Neubeck with communications at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.
The tests were conducted at the Avera Tyler campus in conjunction with the city of Tyler, which helped with staging the event, Neubeck said on July 16. The Minnesota Department of Health was also consulted.
The 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. event was geared toward individuals who live and work in Lincoln County, Minnesota. It was also available for those outside the county who thought they may have been exposed to the virus, had symptoms within the past four to 10 days or have symptoms as of that day or been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, according to a news release from Avera Tyler.
“We had more positive cases. They aren’t growing astronomically but it’s a small population,” Neubeck said of why Avera organized the mass testing.
At least several cases were tied to gatherings held on or around July 4, Neubeck said.
The Minnesota Department of Health coronavirus update said Lincoln County had 37 cases as of July 16. The test results from the July 15 event were not available yet on July 16, Neubeck said.
Lincoln County’s estimated 2019 population is 5,639.
COVID-19 cases in the county and connected to the area had been increasing for about a week, Mary Maertens, Avera Marshall’s president and chief executive officer, said in the news release.
“Beyond the cases reported by the Minnesota Department of Health for Lincoln County, there are additional cases tied to the county,” Maertens said.
The mass testing event will identify those with COVID-19 as of July 15 and initiate contact tracing from those individuals. It can help reduce the spread of coronavirus, health officials said.
“Mass testing is extremely effective in helping us identify the extent of transmission in a community. It also helps us identify both symptomatic cases and asymptomatic positive individuals who could be inadvertently spreading disease (and need to be isolated),” said Terri Dresen of the Minnesota Department of Health.
“However, it is a single point in time,” Dresen said. “A negative test on one day doesn’t mean that that person couldn’t be positive the next day. So, a mass event does have some limitations.”
Carol Biren the public health director of Southwest Health and Human Services, which covers Lincoln County, said even those who may have a negative test might need to quarantine if they have had close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual. Close contact is contact of less than six feet for at least 15 minutes, Biren said.
Quarantine is 14 days from the last close contact day, she said. Those who test positive should isolate for 10 days, Biren said.
A seemingly small spike in COVID-19 cases can “cause a huge ripple effect,” Biren said.
A similar mass testing event was conducted in Marshall in Lyon County, Minnesota, in late June, as health officials noted an increase in COVID-19 cases.
“Minnesota has really encouraged testing,” Neubeck said. “It’s part of the strategy.”
It makes sense for Avera to be part of that strategy with mass testing events when needed, Neubeck said.
Mass testing in South Dakota
South Dakota has conducted mass COVID-19 testing events in Sioux Falls because of the surge in cases related to Smithfield Foods.
However, there has been no mass testing event similar to the July 15 event in Tyler, Minnesota.
Several cases of COVID-19 have been identified in high school students in the Madison School District in Lake County, South Dakota, the superintendent confirmed to KELOLAND News this week.
Lake County had 43 cases as of July 16, according to the S.D. DOH. It had 21 cases on July 1. The county’s estimated 2019 population is 12,797. The county had 16 recoveries on July 1 and 22 on July 15.
COVID-19 cases have also increased in Codington County. The county had 72 COVID-19 cases on July 1 and had 96 on July 16. The county had 48 recoveries on July 1 and 76 on July 15. The estimated 2019 population is about 28,000.
In April, state officials said it had the capacity to test up to 3,000 people per day and planned on increasing capacity to 5,000 per day, but the state has not consistently reached 3,000 tests per day, even with a monthly goal of tests equaling 5% of the population. As of July 15, reported on July 16, the state had recorded 94,036 negative and positive tests which is about 11% (10.6%) of the state’s estimated 2019 population of 884,659.
In Minnesota, “Decisions for mass testing are made based on awareness of disease in a community,” Dresen said. “When we see a potential problem (increase in disease) in a community, we quickly reach out to the local public health and local health care organizations to talk about how best to accomplish the goal of providing testing in the right setting.”
When the South Dakota DOH has seen community upticks in COVID-19, it has looked at testing and how it can play a role to learn more and decrease the spread, health secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said during a July 16 news briefing.
Other states have looked at it differently and approached mass testing differently, Malsam-Rysdon said.
The state DOH has supported mass testing and is confident with its approach, Malsam-Rysdon said.
Dr. Josh Clayton said that individuals that are symptomatic are encouraged to contact their health care provider if they believe they need COVID-19 testing. There is Centers for Disease Control guidance for determining if an asymptomatic close contact individuals needs testing, Clayton said.
South Dakota’s goal is to test 5% of the population or 44,000 people per month, which translates to 44,000 conducted tests, health officials said in June.
It reached that goal in June, Clayton said in early July.
If the state tested up to 44,000 people per month (based on the 5% of the population goal), or completed up to 44,000 tests per month, it would need to test 1,419.35 people per day in July.
From July 1 through July 15, the state has tested about 12,000 individuals, according to DOH data. That equals 806 tests a day for 15 days.
Minnesota has completed 805,212 tests as of July 15, according to the state’s department of health website. The 805,212 tests are about 14.3% of the state’s 2019 estimated population of 5.6 million.
Iowa has conducted 400,869 tests, so 1 out of 8 Iowans have been tested, according to the Iowa Department of Health. Iowa’s estimated 2019 population is 3.5 million.