The addition of free COVID-19 testing at two more CVS pharmacies in Rock County lengthens the list of options for people seeking to get tested.
Not all of those options offer free tests, however, and some require an order from a health care provider. They also vary on the length of time it takes to get results.
CVS District Leader Ashley Pascavis said the company wants to offer COVID-19 testing in as many communities as possible so people have local access to tests.
Janesville’s Milton Avenue CVS Pharmacy started testing Sept. 18. Those ages 12 and older can schedule appointments for the free testing if they are exhibiting symptoms or have a referral from a physician or public health office.
The Gazette in July interviewed a Janesville woman who waited two weeks to get results after being tested at a CVS Pharmacy in Beloit.
Turnaround times for tests have improved since then, Pascavis said, because CVS is working with multiple third-party labs across the state. Results now can be expected in two to three days, she said.
Meanwhile, Janesville’s two main health care systems continue to offer testing, but they sometimes struggle to access resources.
Mercyhealth patients can get results in up to three days depending on the status of lab supplies, which is constantly in flux because of high demand, said Casey Stubbs, infection and control coordinator.
Mercyhealth bought the machine needed to process test samples in-house but cannot use it consistently because cartridges needed for the machine are in short supply, Stubbs said.
Sending tests to third-party labs can add about 72 hours to the turnaround for results, Stubbs said.
Unlike many other local providers, Mercyhealth offers testing for asymptomatic patients if a provider thinks it is warranted. Patients must receive an order from a provider to get a test.
“We know there is significant asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, so testing of asymptomatic is important,” Stubbs said. “We will do that especially for people with close contacts of confirmed positives.”
SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville and Dean Clinic providers don’t have the testing capacity to test asymptomatic patients for the most part, said Brenda Klahn, infection preventionist.
“As much as public health would like us to do it, we don’t have the capacity,” she said.
Still, testing capacity has increased at SSM Health, and the use of SSM Health labs in Madison allows for results in about 24 hours, Klahn said.
Turnaround time is important so people spend less time worrying about whether they are sick and have less time to potentially spread the disease to others, she said.
Many people don’t take the disease as seriously until they learn they might be sick, Klahn said.
Rock County has 465 active and confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Rock County Public Health Department.
Since March, the county has seen 2,327 confirmed cases, and 32 people have died from the disease.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 11 people were hospitalized with the disease in Rock County hospitals.
Twenty-four percent of test results received Wednesday were positive.
Stubbs, who sends Mercyhealth COVID-19 data to the state daily, said she has noticed more young people testing positively lately, which is consistent with what officials have reported statewide.
She said she did not know the reason because she is not involved with disease investigation.
Klahn and Stubbs both said they hope to test patients for influenza whenever they get a COVID-19 test to avoid confusing the two once flu season begins.
So far, neither has seen evidence of flu season beginning, but the flu could ramp up anytime from September into late spring. That means it is more important than ever to get a flu shot, Stubbs said.