Louisiana Dept. of Health responds to lack of COVID-19 testing

As COVID-19 numbers spike in Louisiana, there’s a noticeable difference in testing throughout rural parishes.

According to the Department of Health website, 60 of the state’s 64 parishes have reported positive coronavirus cases. Out of those four that haven’t reported a positive, three are in Northeast Louisiana. Those include Caldwell, West Carroll and Tensas. Tensas has yet to complete a single commercial or state test.

State Representative Michael Echols says despite what the numbers the show, he believes the virus has spread to each parish.

“They’re here right now. It’s just that we can’t get enough testing done to show the amount of viruses that are in the area already,” said Echols.

We reached out to the Department of Health to find out more about the lack of testing and reported cases.

As of Tuesday, there are only two testing sites in the NELA region, St. Francis Medical Center in Ouachita Parish and Citizens Medical Center in Caldwell Parish. Public Information Officer Mindy Faciane responded to our request with this statement:

“The Department of Health recognizes the low number of testing in northeast Louisiana and we are exploring all options to increase testing in the area.”

As the state looks to expand testing, there is additional help on the way to help with our state’s COVID-19 response.

A new test from Abbott Labs can detect the coronavirus in minutes, and according to Echols, we should expect those tests to arrive in a few weeks.

“While we don’t have any of the kits in the area yet, we do have the machines that process the tests. So that’s half the battle,” said Echols.

Echols says he knows this doesn’t help the people that are sick now, but this will help those that will follow.

“Now we just have to get the kits to swab, and then test the people for [COVID-19], and then process the results right there and you should have the results within 30 minutes,” said Echols.

For now, healthcare workers are asking people to remain patient and do what they can to stay safe.

“Everyone is trying their best, and that’s all we can do. It’s no need to panic over this. Everyone just really needs to be diligent. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and don’t go out unless you just absolutely have to get something,” said Steve Barbo, CEO of Citizens Medical Center.

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