As numbers of positive coronavirus cases continue to rise, it’s no surprise locals are taking advantage of Main Street Family Care’s testing services — especially since it rolled out the rapid antigen test at the beginning of July.
“The response has been overwhelming to the rapid test,” Main Street chief sales and marketing officer Betsy Stewart said. “We literally didn’t even do any marketing because we knew word would get around so fast. As people have been out for the July 4 weekend and summer camps, I feel like people wanting to get tested and fearing they’ve been exposed continues to rise.”
Patience is the key to acquiring service at Main Street Family Care right now as staff is currently handling up to 100 patients for a day in a format set up to handle closer to 50.
“We are managing the best we can and had to implement a threshold of, ‘Here’s how many people can come in that just want COVID testing,’” Stewart said. “Our leadership teams are looking to hire more staff to increase that capacity, especially as school starts back, so we’re looking to double our team to increase that threshold.”
Stewart advises anyone wanting to be tested to arrive as close to opening time as possible or even before. As a patient signs in, he or she receives a number on the intake form and once that’s fulfilled for the day, that’s all the staff can feasibly handle — especially for those asymptomatic. However, patients with other primary care needs will be moved to the front of the line.
“If you have (coronavirus) symptoms or need primary care we will accept them and skip the line; they will be worked in as usual to prioritize our core patients,” Stewart said. “Unfortunately, you may get there at opening and get your intake forms and there still may be a very long wait until you’re called in.”
The Sofia Antigen rapid test being offered at Main Street is produced by Quidel and differs from the Abbott. It offers results in about 20 minutes.
“There was crazy feedback from the Abbott test,” Stewart said. “The sensitivity for (the Sofia) test is 100%. The specificity for the test if 93.8%, which is the error rate for a false negative. The proteins in this test take about 24 hours to develop once exposed.”
According to the Federal Drug Administration, the Abbott ID NOW point-of-care test suggests potential inaccurate results. The FDA is investigating whether inconsistencies could be due to the types of swabs used or the type of viral transport media.
Since Main Street began testing in May, it has tested about 1,500 people at its Alexander City location off U.S. Highway 280. All positive and negative test results are reported to the Alabama Department of Public Health as Main Street is a CLIA waived lab. This is laboratory testing that employs specific methods designated under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of the Food and Drug Administration. These include simple tests that carry a low risk for an incorrect result.
The number of people receiving the antibody test has decreased since its initial hype as more people seem to be concerned about current exposure.
“Microbiologists say the antibodies last in the system for two to three months but some people who had a mild infection or are asymptomatic may not ever create the antibodies,” Stewart said. “Unfortunately, we feel like while the test is reliable, we don’t know enough about the antibodies (and how they work).”
The medical provider is hiring more staff as quickly as possible to not only service more patients but also keep current staff members from getting burnt out or overly exposed.
“There is so much demand and we’re trying to maintain as many people as possible,” Stewart said. “We’re trying to hire more people ASAP; we’re expediting the training process. We need people to run the lab and extra front desk help to input patients. We’re hiring to try to increase that current threshold.”
Stewart asks for everyone’s patience and compassion during this demanding time.
“We understand the wait time is not ideal; we don’t want people standing in the hot sun for hours on end,” Stewart said. “We appreciate any level of patience. We’re all in this together.”