JACKSON, Wyo. (KIFI/KIDK)-St. John’s Health in Jackson has initiated a COVID-19 testing procedure intended to help protect staff and patients.
First, CEO Dr. Paul Beaupre said all elective surgery patients are now tested the day prior to their procedure. Any asymptomatic candidate who tests positive will be rescheduled and the person will be connected with the Health Department program for isolation and tracing.
“So far we've only been testing for a week and we've found one asymptomatic carrier already. I think this is fantastic because we can then turn that individual over to the public health department and they can do contact tracing. Ultimately, as we expand this to the community it's going to be a great way for us to socially isolate, only those patients that really have the disease and do appropriate contact tracing instead of requiring all of us to shelter in place,” Beaupre said.
The health center has already seen one patient in that category and Beaupre says that demonstrates the importance of the program. He believes it will help the community “resume normality” while reducing the chance of a high level of hospitalizations.
St. John’s will also begin COVID-19 PCR testing for St. John’s Health staff and providers. 20 individuals will be selected from staff on a random basis every day and tested for active COVID-19. Since the hospital already monitors staff twice daily for symptoms and temperature, the new test will focus on people who may be harboring the virus without showing outward symptoms.
"We're going to continue that until we have tested our entire workforce, it's voluntary from the workforce but most people are saying that they're interested in having the test done. This will give us an indication of how much asymptomatic carriers we have in the community," Beaupre said.
Those tests will allow the Health Department to isolate and conduct contact tracing for any positive cases. If successful, St. John’s believes the program could be expanded across the community to other segments of Teton County, including Jackson Hole Fire/EMS, law enforcement, and even local business.
"I would like to see it expand, I think you're going to see efforts to try to expand it nationally. Again, you know, all of this is predicated on the fact that we don't have a vaccine. Once we have a vaccine it's going to be important for everybody to get vaccinated like they do during flu season. And that will basically eradicate the disease at that point," Beaupre said.
St. Johns Health has treated 11 COVID-19 positive patients so far.