A Message from County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles
For Immediate Release: Sunday, March 15, 2020
In our County’s ongoing effort to keep you informed of the latest, most critical and accurate information, I would like to explain a bit from a medical standpoint about the process regarding testing for COVID-19. We’ve been getting hundreds of calls and emails asking where to get tested for the virus. Allow me to provide some guidance.
Public health workers here in Montgomery County have been working around the clock for the past several weeks in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health and health departments around the region.
Currently, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) criteria dictates the only people who should be tested for COVID-19 are those who have symptoms AND travel history in the past 14 days to specific countries where COVID-19 is widespread (China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea) or symptoms AND close contact with a known confirmed case.
While the availability of testing kits has increased in the past week to more community-based laboratories, hospitals and urgent care centers, the decision to test someone for COVID-19 is still based on CDC criteria. The need for testing will be determined by a medical professional based on testing criteria or with additional consultation of State or local public health officials in some instances where individuals have concerning symptoms that do not meet established testing criteria.
Health care locations have told us that people are angry when they are told no testing is available or they are not recommended for testing and there have been a few incidents of angry and upset individuals becoming disruptive to staff and others.
I know many people are anxious to “know their status,” but the reality is that there are not enough test kits nation-wide currently to make “on demand” testing available. That may change in the future, but that is the current situation. In Montgomery County, we are actively working to develop potential ways to increase access to testing for those who need it based on their medical condition.
My recommendation to everyone remains the same: if you are having symptoms AND you have travel history or exposure to a known confirmed case, call your health provider and notify them before you go into their office, so that they can take proper precautions. If they determine you meet the criteria and have ruled out other illnesses, such as influenza (we are still in flu season) and other possible causes of your symptoms, they may recommend testing.
Commercial laboratories, hospitals and urgent care centers will not perform walk-in testing at this time.
I will repeat the advice I have been giving for several weeks:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Take everyday preventive actions
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
- If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover your cough and sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve
- Stay home from work if you are sick and try to avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
- Wash your hands after touching surfaces in public places.
- Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
- Clean and disinfect your home to remove germs: practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks & cell phones)
- Pay attention for potential COVID-19 symptoms including, fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you feel like you are developing symptoms, call your doctor.
- If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately. In adults, emergency warning signs include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
We are working to keep you up to date with new information once it’s confirmed. Visit our COVID-19 webpage (montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19) and follow us on Facebook @montgomerycountyinfo and Twitter @MontgomeryCoMD.
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Release ID: 20-086
Media Contact: Julie Parker 301-455-9209