The Oregon Health Authority announced Wednesday that it is now recommending screening for certain people who have no symptoms, but the latest guidelines still don’t include general testing in long-term care facilities.
State public health officials have overturned their previous position that general screening for people without symptoms “is not helpful”, highlighting six categories of Oregonians where screening is now recommended.
This includes people of color who have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus in Oregon and nationally. At least one Oregon tribe, the Confederate tribes of Warm Springs, had registered more than 20 positive cases of COVID-19 by the end of May.
“The broad impact of the coronavirus has particularly affected blacks and African-Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Latinos, Latins and Latinx, in the United States and here in Oregon,” said Patrick Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority. said Tuesday in a statement. “A centuries-old history of racism and oppression has led to the very health conditions that worsen the impacts of COVID-19.”
The six categories are:
- Close contact of a person with a confirmed infection or with a person suspected of being infected by public health officials
- People exposed to the coronavirus in a gathering setting, such as a nursing home or prison
- Migrant or seasonal farm workers when they arrive in Oregon
- Black Oregonians, African Americans, Latinos, Latins, Latins, American Indians / Alaska Native, Asian, Asian American or Pacific Islander
- Disabled Oregonians
- People whose mother tongue is not English
Testing capacity in Oregon is estimated to be close to 38,000 per week, although less than half of that number is generally tested.
Encouraging screening in some symptomless people could help identify infections earlier and reduce the spread. The virus has disproportionately infected Latinos, who are among those now asked to be tested without symptoms.
Oregon Health Authority guidelines still do not encourage large-scale screening in long-term care facilities. It’s not as aggressive as the federal guidelines for testing all nursing home workers weekly. Residents should also be tested weekly in facilities with a single suspected infection until the virus disappears, according to the United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
State officials have suggested that a screening plan for long-term care facilities is imminent.
Meanwhile, the Oregon Health Authority announced that it has now launched a study of antibody test results. Serological tests do not identify active infections but, if accurate, they are intended to show whether someone has developed an antibody against the virus from a previous infection.
The study is purported to “determine the prevalence of the antibody population in Oregon based on sampling across the state,” according to health authority documents.
Last month, public health officials told the press room that they were not analyzing the antibody results because the tests were too unreliable.
– Brad Schmidt; [email protected]; 503-294-7628; @_brad_schmidt
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