COVID test trial highlights workers’ dilemma as cases soar | WJHL

JOHNSON CITY, Tennessee (WJHL) – Ebenezer Bacon searched for a rapid COVID-19 test but could not find one. Struggling with the thought of waiting hours, if not days, for test results and missing work, she said she got lucky when a friend offered her a quick test.

“I felt like I had let down my team. That’s what I felt at the start, ”she said.

As a fully vaccinated person, Bacon said she felt protected from serious illness, but realized she could still be infected. Although it didn’t help matters when his test came back positive.

“It really upsets me to put myself in the situation where we were understaffed, our whole team was understaffed, and we continue to be understaffed and now one of – I feel like a key player – found herself in a situation where now she is positive for COVID and I am away for a minimum of five days. ”

Bacon is a manager at a service industry company in Johnson City. Staff shortages in the service sector are not new, but with omicron spreading at an unprecedented rate, workers like Bacon are feeling the pressure to call in sick and get tested.

“If I hadn’t been able to take a test, especially with the weather going where the health department closed at 3 a.m. yesterday, then a two-hour delay today, and I had already been scheduled to be at work, ”Bacon said. “I would have written it down and got to work.”

The pressure to get tested and the guilt hanging over those who tested positive, she explained, were ubiquitous in her mind this week.

“It’s easy for you to get into the type of work that I do and be very angry with what’s going on today and the understaffing, and the people who don’t want to come to work because they know that it will take time for them to regain health care or they are sick and they are afraid, and all the rules that we have to follow to even put them on the ground. So there are a lot of blockages. A lot of bottlenecks. ‘strangulation,’ she said.

Fortunately, Bacon said her friend was able to buy her a quick test at a nearby pharmacy and deliver it to her at her home. But she said she shudders at the thought of not having passed the test.

“Knowing that I was going to have to go out for the mandatory five days that CDC is saying right now and the stress it was about to be on the business, so it was really hard to take yesterday.”

Bacon told News Channel 11 about the plan on Friday if she had failed to get the quick test.

“Today I would have stood up and looked at the already two hour barrel of the health department delaying opening, and then I really guessed, ‘Are my symptoms strong enough? Does this really justify my taking time off work? “And I would have come in,” she said.

Bacon said she felt lucky that she was able to access a quick test.

“A lot of the people I work with don’t make as much money as I do,” she said. “Their ability to go for treatment or to have a neighbor who has a quick test or who has the accessibility that I had, they don’t have at all, and I work right next to them,” like very close. . ”

Ballad Health chief medical officer Dr Clay Runnels told News Channel 11 that the hospital system and other community partners like ETSU Health have expanded testing options as omicron spreads in the region.

He said emergency services were filling up across the country with people showing minor symptoms of COVID but unable to find a test anywhere else, causing massive backlogs.

“Unnecessary emergency room visits continue to be a big concern for all health systems, including Ballad Health,” Runnels said. “Overloading our emergency departments with minor care or patients presenting for testing continues to be a concern. This is why we are working very hard to try to make testing as available as possible with the resources provided to us. “

He said the barrier to Ballad offering more testing is the availability of supplies.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep them at a level that will allow us to test as many people as possible as quickly as possible,” Runnels said.

He added that the hospital system expects an even larger increase in the number of cases in the coming weeks as the region is in the very early stages of the omicron outbreak.

“The shift to predominantly omicron has occurred within the last seven days, so there are a lot of data points that we will have in 10 days, two weeks, or three weeks in terms of how patients behave. to their illness and the severity of the illness. that we just don’t have here at the regional level yet, ”he said.

Whether you need to stop working or need to isolate yourself from loved ones, Runnels said it’s the best option when you have flu-like symptoms.

“It is probably the most infectious contagious variant that we have seen of omicron. So even with mild symptoms, you could endanger other loved ones: your friends, your family. And so, you know, keeping away from other people when you’re having symptoms and knowing what’s going on is very, very critical, ”he said.

In Virginia, Breanne Forbes Hubbard, director of population health for the Mount Rogers Health District, told News Channel 11 that PCR tests are available free to everyone in all health departments.

She explained that the turnaround time for PCR test results for the health service was 24 to 48 hours, tending to approach 48 hours.

“With the increase in testing, it seems that the results are taking a little longer to come back. This will likely be a somewhat fluid situation in the coming weeks as increased testing could increase lab turnaround times, ”said Forbes Hubbard.

She added that in the next few weeks, if you feel bad, look for a test.

“The best thing for everyone who is sick is to stay home until they are well, regardless of the cause of their illness. The upside is that the evidence from other countries indicates that this surge is likely to be relatively short-lived compared to the delta, ”said Forbes Hubbard.

If a person gets a rapid test like Bacon did, Forbes Hubbard suggests they look for a PCR test as well. She also had other tips for those tested.

“If you receive a positive result on a home test, you should consider yourself positive and begin your isolation (and quarantine for household members or close contacts, if applicable). As a general rule, we tend to recommend following a negative rapid test with PCR if someone is symptomatic, but positives can be treated as positives, especially if there are symptoms, ”she said.

Elna M. Lemons