EATON — Preble County Public Health has released results from the COVID-19 pop-up testing on July 23, showing 15 positive tests results from 300 administered tests.
Out of 300 total tests, there were 15 positives returned, resulting in a five percent positive test rate. Of those 300 tests, 102 came from outside of Preble County, mostly comprised of those from neighboring counties such as Montgomery, Darke and Butler County as well as Wayne County in Indiana.
In terms of positive tests, 13 were Preble County residents, one was in Montgomery County and one came from Alabama who, according to Preble County Health Commissioner Erik Balster, may have just been in the area and learned of free testing, though he said the southern address did raise eyebrows.
“I don’t think we quite expected a third [from outside the county],” he said. “Maybe more of a fourth or fifth, actually.”
The tests, which were sent to Dayton Children’s, were supposed to have results back within 2-3 days after specimen collection, but the results were not given to Preble County Public Health until July 30, a week after the initial testing.
Once the test results were received, they began notifying those who tested positive on July 30 and 31 by phone and sent out letters to those who tested negative.
Balster said the late results did not help Preble County Public Health conduct any extensive contact tracing in a timely manner.
“Unfortunately, no, but it did give us a snapshot of what the positivity rate is of a small sample but a sample of residents in the county, which lined up with the general average throughout that we’ve that we’ve been seeing as far as tests go,” he said.
The percent positive of 5.0 from the pop-up testing was lower than the state’s seven-day moving average percent positive of 6.1 on July 23.
However, when taking into account that just 198 of the 300 tests were Preble County residents and that two positives were also outside the county, the percent positive for just Preble County was 6.6, higher than the state’s seven-day moving average on July 23.
“Our numbers seem to be kind of parallel with the majority of especially rural counties throughout the state,” Balster said. “We were expecting right around that number, quite frankly. I guess if there’s a positive takeaway from it, we’re still, you know, a couple percentages lower than the state average, which I think is a plus.”
While Balster said the pop-up testing did not help with contact tracing, he did say it helped validate data that has been reported to Preble County Public Health.
“You know, you could think of it as a study, almost, that we did that basically replicated the results we’ve been seeing, which I think on one hand kind of validates all the data that we’ve been seeing reported to us from all the hospitals, but at the same time, without being able to get results back in a quick manner, we weren’t able to get those 13 individuals information back to them so that they could potentially stay home,” he said.
Even while someone is waiting to receive testing results, Balster said that they should take precautions if they find themselves ill or symptomatic.
“Though I would say if you are symptomatic or feeling ill you probably shouldn’t be out anyways,” he said. “In a perfect world or a perfect situation we’d be able to get the results back within a day or two and people would be able to make more informed and better decisions for either treating themselves or staying isolated if need be.”
While it was not a smooth process getting the test results back to those who tested positive, Balster said Preble County Public Health was happy to provide testing to the community which has been asking for it since this pandemic began.
“I think overall we’re happy to be able to provide the service of testing to the community because it’s something that people have been asking for since March, and testing still continues to be hard to come by,” he said.
Given the late results, Balster said there were lessons to take away from the pop-up testing.
“I think one thing we’ve learned is that testing may not be, you know, the most important thing in the world,” he said. “I think if people are symptomatic or feeling ill, they still need to take the same precautions when they get a test or not. And, you know, if they’re feeling ill, they should stay home, especially if they have symptoms that are COVID-like symptoms.”
In regard to holding more pop-up testing in Preble County, Balster said Preble County Public Health will do its best to provide service if pop-up testing is something the county would want again.
“I guess a final thought on testing is that if the community wants more testing, as a health department, we’ll do our best to provide that service to them again,” he said. “Our hope is that laboratory time decreases and if we are able to do more testing, that we’ll be able to get people back results in a more timely manner.”
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @BradenMoles