Memorial Health to begin using rapid testing for COVID-19

ByJake Wallace|April 17, 2020 at 4:53 PM EDT - Updated April 17 at 6:54 PM

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Memorial Health gave their coronavirus updates earlier Friday afternoon, offering numbers of patients and cautious optimism about the direction the Coastal Empire is heading.

Memorial Health has that optimism for two reasons.

One, health officials say the models show encouraging signs for the Savannah area and two, a new testing method they feel will give a more real-time account of the virus here at home.

Memorial Health’s Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Thacker says he’s encouraged by the most recent models on COVID-19. He says models still predict a May 1 peak in Georgia, but a smaller peak than originally anticipated.

He adds now is not the time to relax.

“Savannah, it appears to have quote unquote, beaten the curve so to speak. I think how we handle the coming weeks and months will really dictate what it looks like on the back end of that peak.”

Dr. Thacker says Memorial currently has 24 admitted patients with coronavirus, 17 in Intensive Care like treatment. He says the number of admitted positive patients has stayed around the low to mid 20’s recently.

“We continue to be prepared for a potential surge, but we remain hopeful after looking at recent numbers that we may have avoided that.”

Another encouraging sign: a new rapid test the hospital hopes to put into practice Monday. Thacker says the new test would drastically cut down time for a result from the one to two days needed now.

“Real world experience would likely be an hour to an hour and a half turnaround for a provider. If we dedicated that machine to just those tests, we could do about 400 per day.”

Thacker says for now that volume of tests isn’t needed and the hospital will continue to prioritize those tests for admitted patients.

While Thacker says it appears things are looking up, he adds Memorial won’t be changing how they operate until they’re positive all is clear - including keeping their currently unused tent ready for operation.

“You will not see us pull back on a lot of these additional enhancements for patient safety and healthcare safety in the coming weeks because we think this is part of the reason for where we are.”

Thacker says so far, the hospital has had a total of 45 patients test positive for COVID-19 since they began testing. Memorial Health states over half of the patients that have tested positive for COVID-19 have been discharged.

Dr. Thacker adds the hospital hasn’t had any staff test positive from work-related exposure.

Photo: Getty Images

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