KCMO Health Department braces for busy December of testing, tracing

Dr. Archer says testing availability a problem
COVID-19 testing
Posted at 3:06 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 16:06:15-05

KANSAS CITY, MO. — The end of 2020 will be problematic as the coronavirus pandemic continues, according to Dr. Rex Archer, of the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department.

"The availability of testing though is a problem," Archer told 41 Action News in a one-on-one interview, "and has never been effectively addressed for our whole nation. We don't have the level of funding and know that we can sustain the testing after the end of December, and so that's a big concern and question mark right now that we're hoping to even keep on the current staff.

"But we've not been able to expand the capacity to test because you don't want to have people quit a job to come and do something that then a month later, there's no funds for them. So that's been the challenge right now."

The financial challenges come as federal CARES Act funds, distributed county by county, must be spent by Dec. 30.

COVID-19 testing clinics are set for the rest of the week, and Archer said anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms needs to be tested within 24 hours of symptom onset.

"But if you don't have symptoms, and you don't know that you've been exposed, you're not as high a priority on the testing list," Archer said. "Now, if you have somebody over to your house that you then find out was COVID positive during the period that you could get that disease from them, then, yes, you should test. But you don't test the same day or the next day. It's best to wait at least five, and probably better to wait close to seven days, and then be tested."

People who get tested too early, according to Archer, will have to be tested again because, if they have contracted the virus, it "hasn't grown enough" to result in a positive test.

"The other thing is we don't let people off of quarantine early," he said. "Just because they've been tested, particularly if they've been tested early in the disease process, because they could still become positive."

Dr. Archer also supplied 41 Action News with a informational graphic, explaining dynamics of infection, and having the disease.

KCMO Health Department Infographic
COURTESY: Kansas City Health Department

"The top line shows you are exposed to an infected [person] with the virus. There's then what we call a latency period between when you're exposed, and when you're actually infectious, when you're actually starting to shed the virus that you could expose others," he said.

The challenge with COVID-19, according to Archer, is that some people with the virus might not show symptoms.

"You'll also notice that the infectious period is for some diseases before you become symptomatic," Archer said. "And that's the problem with COVID, is you can actually get the disease up to 48 hours before you know that you got it. And you could be spreading it for that period of time."

Archer issued this warning for the upcoming holiday season: "Let's not ruin these December religious traditions and holidays, by not practicing what we know we need to do to keep from spreading the disease," he said. "We could get control of this, even before we have the vaccine, even without any additional restrictions, if 99% of people took this seriously and said, 'I'm not going to spread the disease to others, we could end this outbreak.'"

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