We asked Dr. Albert Chaffin, Chief Medical Officer of PANW and Leader of our COVID-19 Task force, to answer common questions our patient families are asking about our new on-site COVID-19 testing. Since early on in the pandemic, we have been able to facilitate testing by performing swabs of patient noses, which were then sent to processing laboratories in the community for the results. Now we are so excited and grateful that the Oregon Health Authority has granted us permission to perform the full testing procedure right in our own offices- swabbing and processing. This allows us to find out results much more quickly and have better continuity of care.
1. Dr. Chaffin, as the lead of our COVID-19 task force, what was the most challenging aspect of getting PANW approved to offer in-house rapid testing?
“We wanted to be able to test at the beginning of the pandemic but did not have access to order the tests from major companies because they were being allocated to larger health systems. We signed a contract all the way back in the summer but with supply issues, we did not receive our first shipment of tests until more recently.”
2. Can you describe the 2 kinds of COVID-19 tests that PANW offers and the benefits of each one?
“One type of test is the Antigen Test for the nucleocapsid protein on the virus. This one is used for people who are symptomatic and have been sick for at least 5 days. The second type of test is a Molecular Test for the genetic code of the virus. It can be used for both symptomatic individuals and also asymptomatic individuals (those who have contracted the virus but have not started showing symptoms yet.)
NOTE – both tests used for COVID-19 at PANW are stable and will detect the virus variants that have popped up (e.g. The UK variant B.1.1.7 that has recently emerged).”
3. How accurate are these tests in determining whether my child has COVID-19 or not?
“Both tests have a 95% or higher chance that a positive test means your child has Covid-19. If your child has been exposed but is not showing symptoms, it is ideal to get a test 5 days after the known exposure. If your child does have symptoms however, it is recommended that you get tested within 7 days of when symptoms began.”
4. Will we need to have a visit with a medical provider first before getting tested, and what should we expect with the testing?
“We do ask that all patients who are getting tested have a visit with a provider first to clarify the type of test needed, to answer any questions such as what to do if the test is positive or negative and how long to quarantine, and to make sure there are no other issues that need to be addressed. Our nurses are available to talk with parents if there are questions.
After scheduling your child’s virtual office visit, drive to the clinic and park at the time of your child’s appointment time. We ask that you remain in your car for the virtual visit and then we will come out to the parking lot to perform the swab in your vehicle.
For the tests themselves, these involve a swab in the nose. Depending on which test is done, we will swab the lower part of both nostrils, or perform a deep swab on only one side of the nose. It is easiest if the child is sitting near a car window that can be lowered. Younger kids should be seated in the lap of a parent to ensure they can be held still for swabbing.”
5. If a patient needs to get an on-site COVID-19 test, tell us the process our parents should follow to schedule?
“You can schedule online or call the office to schedule your COVID-19 test with a virtual visit.”
6. What if my child is showing symptoms of
COVID-19 that concern me? Can a patient still have an exam by a provider in addition to the test?
“Yes, absolutely. We can have patients come into the office in the late afternoon during our sick care hours, or we can do an exam in a patient’s vehicle in the parking lot. We encourage you to call our advice nurse if you are concerned about your child’s safety or condition. Always call 911 if you feel it is an emergency. Your provider may ask you to bring your child into the office for an in-person exam after a virtual visit as well if they feel further evaluation is needed.”
7. What are your recommendations for reasons to have testing done on a child who is asymptomatic?
We are offering testing for asymptomatic patients who have known exposure to Covid-19 and need to know if they should quarantine. We are also offering testing for those who need to prove they do not have COVID-19 for return to school, daycare, work or other essential activities; are required to for essential travel; before visiting a person at high risk of COVID-19 complications (like a grandparent); if the state health department refers you for testing; or if your child identifies as an American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian and Pacific Islander, Black and African immigrant, or Latino regardless of symptoms or exposures.”
8. What situations would you recommend a patient definitely NOT get a test?
“Due to a limited supply of tests, we are not prioritizing testing for non-essential travel or leisure, or if you have a general curiosity about your health status.”
9. How long does it take to get the test results back and how will I be notified? Does the state get notified of my child’s results?
“Test results are available in 15 minutes and we will notify you in-person or by a phone call. The state does require that we report the results of all tests, both positive and negative. All patient identifying information is protected and kept confidential.”
10. Will you continue to send out COVID-19 tests to community labs for some patients?
“After we exhaust our supply of tests or if there is a major community shortage, we will start sending patient swabs to community labs again for processing.”
11. Is there any benefit to going to an Urgent Care or hospital testing centers to get tested? Are their tests more accurate?
“The tests that we are doing at PANW are the same tests that are being done in major labs in the community. They are just as good. There is no benefit to going to an urgent care unless you are unable to access an appointment at PANW. Like PANW, urgent cares are requiring a visit with a provider before testing.”
12. Will my insurance cover the on-site COVID test? If my child is uninsured will I be charged for the testing?
“If you have insurance, the test will be covered according to federal recommendations. If your child is uninsured, PANW has resources to assist. Please call our office.”
13. If my child tests positive for COVID-19, what are your recommendations for treatment?
“If your child tests positive for COVID-19 and has symptoms, the plan of care is the same as for a flu-like illness which is plenty of fluids, rest, and to stay home and isolate. If concerning symptoms develop like shortness of breath or rapid breathing, your child should be assessed by a medical provider.”
14. How do I protect the rest of my family if my child tests positive?
“If one of your family members tests positive for COVID-19, the ideal situation is that they would be isolated in a different part of the house so that they wouldn’t have contact with other family members. Some counties have resources for hotels to allow family members to isolate.”
15. Should my other children be tested as well if one tests positive?
“If one person in the house is positive, it is not necessary to test the rest of the family because if they do get sick with the same symptoms, it would be assumed it is covid-19. If other family members get different symptoms, they should contact our office for advice.”
16. Last question for you Dr. Chaffin- did you get your COVID vaccine yet?
“YES! I got it on Thursday Jan 7th, 2021 and it didn’t even hurt!”