Lane County ramps up testing for vulnerable populations

The goal is not only to find out who has the virus and catch it early but also to learn more about how it is spreading in the community.

Posted: May 4, 2020 6:40 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Lane County is ramping up their testing efforts, keeping vulnerable populations -- such as people in nursing homes -- in mind.

Jason Davis, a spokesperson for Lane County Public Health, said they are working to do Sentinel testing, which involves testing people in specific populations, even if they don't have symptoms. The goal is to not only find out who has the virus and catch it early but also to learn more about how it is spreading in the community. 

"It's not only just for understanding the disease, but that understanding really drives our response, and it helps us be more coordinated and be more efficient in our response," Davis said.

The testing program is in its early stages at the temporary homeless shelter at the Lane Events Center. Davis said so far five people have been tested but they plan to test all of them. He said the full rollout of the program is set to happen later this week, and they are working to build trust with the people staying at the shelter because they need to collect personal information from them.

Steven Miller has been staying at the shelter for two weeks and hopes others agree to be tested.

"I hope that they will all cooperate, everybody here, and it will be smooth and great and everybody will be negative," Miller said.

Davis said they plan to expand the program to long-term care facilities and the Latino population starting next week. He said this form of widespread testing allows them to start doing real public health work.

"Real public health work is not staying at home," Davis said "Real public health is trying to minimize the impacts to daily life and then put out the hot spots."

Davis said they plan to work with nonprofit Centro Latino Americano to get the Latino population tested. He said working with them could make people more comfortable about getting the test done.

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