Wood River Valley residents who have been exposed to COVID-19 but have not shown any symptoms will soon be able to get tested for the virus through a collaborative effort by a local doctor and the St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation.

A website for the testing program, known as COVID Outreach Wood River, is set to roll out today, Nov. 4, and testing is expected to begin Thursday. The program will provide free nasal swab tests at various locations across the Wood River Valley.

“It’s one more tool that enables a community to decrease the rate of spread of infection,” Dr. Tom Archie, a Ketchum-based physician and organizer of the project, told the Mountain Express.

Archie first came up with the idea for the program after hearing about a similar effort in Philadelphia, he said. The only testing available in the Wood River Valley at the time was for patients with clear COVID-19 symptoms—leaving what Archie saw as a critical gap in testing for asymptomatic people who had been exposed to the virus. Official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that anyone who has been in close contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19 get tested, even if the exposed person has not shown any symptoms.

“It’s really hard to get testing if you’re not symptomatic in the valley,” Archie said. “You’ve got people able to spread the virus but not yet symptomatic, who are spreading the virus but don’t know it.”

The St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation has pledged $250,000 to the project, according to the foundation’s chief development officer, Megan Tanous.

“Community generosity has made this program a reality, and we would appreciate any further support from the community to help the ongoing effort,” Tanous told the Express. “This is one investment we can make to help improve the health of our community.”

Drive-up testing will be available six days a week, with the following tentative schedule: in Ketchum on Mondays and Thursdays, in Hailey on Tuesdays and Fridays, and in Bellevue on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Testing will take place at the Lupine Building in Ketchum (220 S. Second Ave., Suite 103), at the Blaine County School District Office in Hailey (118 Bullion St.), and at the South Central Public Health office in Bellevue (117 Ash St.).

Test sample collection is performed in the person’s car, and results should be available in 24-36 hours. The program will be staffed by first responders, such as EMTs, paramedics, nurses and laboratory technicians, Archie said.

Appointments must be scheduled ahead of time through an online scheduling system. For exact locations and times available, see the COVID Outreach Wood River website at covidoutreachwoodriver.com. Mobile group testing may also be available for businesses, schools or other organizations with at least 10 people.

The first priority of the project is testing those who have been exposed but are asymptomatic, Archie said, but testing may also be available for people who need a COVID-19 test before undergoing a procedure at a hospital outside of the St. Luke’s system, people who are symptomatic but unable to get tested elsewhere and people who need a coronavirus test for travel-related reasons.

For those who are asymptomatic but have been in close contact with an infected person, Archie recommends getting tested five to eight days after the exposure. Those who are symptomatic should be tested two to three days after the onset of symptoms.

For more information, visit covidoutreachwoodriver.com. Information on the website will be available in both English and Spanish, according to the organizers.

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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