Local COVID-19 testing yields 32 positive results

COVID-19 TESTING took place in Marshall last Wednesday through Friday. Submitted photo

1,019 tests were given in Marshall in 3 days last week

By Per Peterson

Large tents often signify some kind of celebratory event. Last week, two green-and-white tents set up on the Avera Medical Group Carlson Street campus in Marshall were set up, not for any type of festival, but for some important testing for area residents.

A mass community COVID-19 testing site was set up last week by Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center, Southwest Health and Human Services and the Minnesota Department of Health. The testing was only diagnostic, not for antibodies. The type of sample collection performed was a mid-turbinate swab, which goes about 1 inch into the nose. This test typically causes less discomfort than the NP swab or nasopharyngeal swab used for other COVID-19 testing and is inserted deeper.

Test results were available approximately 48-72 hours after testing. Those with positive results were notified by phone as soon as results were available. Individuals with negative results were contacted later.

Of 1,019 tests administered, 32 came back as testing positive for COVID-19 — a 3% positivity rate. Results after the first day showed closer to a 7% positivity rate.

“For many years we have had real drill practice around Hospital Incident Command,” Avera President and CEO Mary Maertens said in an interview with the Tracy Area Headlight Herald on Wednesday. “We have lots of good people filling roles, so we were already poised to make rapid deployment, whatever the issue might be.”

Maertens said the Avera group has done testing in at least one other community.

“I told them, ‘We need the playbook, send us what you’ve got,” she said. “We were pleased to have some resources, but we had to take all of that and fine-tune it for Marshall.”

Maertens said Avera also utilized a blueprint of other similar events the State Emergency Operations Center had used in other communities; they also worked with other officials like Craig Schaefer, an emergency response specialist for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the City of Marshall, Lyon County and the Marshall Police Department.

“It came together so well because we were organized — lots of people worked countless hours to pull it off,” said Maertens. “It’s more than setting up cones and directing traffic. It’s the details around communication … you can’t have everybody just showing up and hoping for the best. You need volunteers scheduled, organized and job action sheets.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.