Jefferson County trying to clear hurdles to accept NY’s rapid COVID-19 tests

WWNY Jefferson County trying to clear hurdles to accept NY’s rapid COVID-19 tests

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Jefferson County has cleared one hurdle on the path to accepting rapid COVID-19 tests from New York state. But, there are more obstacles in the way.

Some of it has to do with state rules. When an agency does a test, there’s a 3-hour window for the results to be reported to the state. It doesn’t matter if that test is negative or positive. There’s concern tonight that this 3-hour window could put a strain on local testing sites.

“The facilities that are doing a lot of the rapid testing right now are going to find this reporting requirement onerous. So, we don’t want to inundate them. It’s jeopardizing whether they will continue going forward,” said Scott Gray, Jefferson County Board of Legislators chair.

Gray says they’re working with the state to find alternatives to the 3-hour window. It’s one sticking point still left after another was resolved earlier this week.

Gray says he wanted to be sure the county didn’t have to administer the tests itself.

He says he was told counties could partner with a local agency. One potential organization is the North Country Family Health Center.

“We’ve reached out to them. They’ve expressed interest. So, it’s a matter of working through the details,” he said.

Gray says the state is looking for details too.

It wants a plan from the county detailing who these rapid tests would help.

According to Gray, school districts are likely the focus.

“First of all, we ensure that they return to the classroom, whether they’re faculty or students. And, two, is when we return them to the classroom. There’s some assurance that there is safety,” he said.

Lewis County Manager Ryan Piche says he sees the state’s rapid tests as a means for supporting schools too.

DOH guidelines call for students and staff showing any COVID-19 symptoms to see a health care provider And one way to get them back in the classroom is to present a negative test.

“Being able to get that negative test result right away, rather than having to wait for it to be shipped to a lab, two, three, four, five days, that’s really going to help us to keep the schools open,” said Piche.

Piche says Lewis County Health System will be hosting the equipment and administering the tests.

“The partnership with the hospital is invaluable because if we had to rely on our own public health staff to do all of the testing and handle all this equipment, we really frankly wouldn’t have enough staff to do that,” he said.

Both Piche and Gray say there’s a need for more testing.

“More testing is better for our schools. It’s better for our businesses. So, the more equipment and kits that the state is sending us, the better for us,” said Piche.

“Testing is critical. It is the building block of this whole operation,”

We have reached out to St. Lawrence County officials to learn about their plans for the rapid testing equipment. We haven’t heard back yet, but will update the story if we do.

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