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Corpus Christi expands testing for COVID-19

Director of Public Health for Nueces County, Annette Rodriguez, displays the different kits used to take patient samples and then test for COVID-19. Screen capture

Anyone with any one of a list of COVID-19 symptoms can now be tested for the disease in Corpus Christi, announced Annette Rodriguez, director of Public Health for Nueces County and Corpus Christi at the joint city/county daily briefing Tuesday, April 21.

Symptoms listed include a fever of 100 degrees or more, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain or body aches, a headache, a sore throat, or a lack of taste or smell.

“You don’t need a combination of these symptoms,” she said. “It used to be fever plus; now, any of these symptoms will do.”

Even though screeners will still ask callers whether they have recently traveled from a COVID-19 hotspot, travel is no longer a requirement for testing.

“We have been following Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention) guidelines, and those guidelines are changing,” Rodriguez said.

Also, the Coastal Bend has received an influx of collection and extraction test kits and materials since coming close to running out last week.

“We were down to 42 extraction kits, and we just received 300, so we are good on those,” Rodriguez said. “We also now have over 1,000 plates, and we have 500 collection kits on the way. That’s exciting news.”

Rodriguez brought samples of the kits mentioned to both the City Council meeting and the daily briefing Tuesday to explain the testing process.

Patients are still screened, she said, but the criteria for testing is much lower than when testing first began in March. Once selected for a test, an appointment is made for the drive-through test center, which is open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the old Memorial Christus Spohn Hospital.

Collection kits include a long cotton swab, which is inserted in a patient’s nostril for a sample. The swab is snapped in two and the sample end put into a tube, which is taken to the state laboratory in Corpus Christi, one of only 10 in Texas.

The samples are run through an extraction kit, which then delivers extracted materials to the aforementioned plates. Another machine, called a Polymer Chain Reaction machine, or PCR, runs the sample to determine if it is positive or negative for COVID-19.

“PCR is the gold standard,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going to be right more times than it is going to be wrong.”

If the test is negative, the patient is notified and the case closed. If it’s positive, that information is submitted to the State Department of Health as required by law and contact tracing begins.

Contact tracing identifies everyone and every place the patient has been in previous days. People who might have been exposed to the disease can then self-quarantine to help stop the spread.

The testing facility, which also serves San Patricio and Kleburg counties, is a Biosafety Level 3 lab. The CDC lab is a BSL 4.

If you think you have the coronavirus, contact the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District at 361-826-7200, and a representative will give you instructions. Check the city’s webpage for more information.

For more tips on how to keep yourself, your workspace, and your home safe, visit the COVID-19 resources webpage at CCBizNews.com/covid-19. You’ll also find information on the latest news, closures, cancellations, and public orders along with informational links to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

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There are 1 comments.

Anonymous —
PCR or polymerase chain reaction is very good but swabbing the nostril is not as effective as checking the organ that is infected by the virus. Recent autopsies show that swabbing the nose or throat may lead to false negatives since the virus can infect lungs, kidneys, the cardiovascular system.

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