By Joshua Maloni
Niagara County Legislature Chairwoman Becky Wydysh is encouraging all residents to get a COVID-19 diagnostic test. She said this is a prudent move to ensure public health, as well as a necessary component required for reopening Western New York.
Speaking Monday to elected leaders in the River Region, Wydysh said, “I think it's a great idea for anyone to get tested. Again, you can have no symptoms and still be a carrier of the virus. And if that's the case – especially if you're working, even if you're just out shopping, if you're out and about in the public, for the safety of your own family, if you're carrying the virus, it would be good to know that. So, I encourage it for everyone.
“You know, it's good for different reasons, for different people. But it would be good for anyone to know if they're carrying the virus.”
One of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s CDC-inspired seven metrics in determining when a region can reopen from his “New York State on PAUSE” order is “Average daily diagnostic testing over the past 7 days must be sufficient to conduct 30 tests per 1,000 residents per month.”
Wydysh explained, “We have to show that we've tested a certain number of people in the area, so we do encourage everyone to go out and get tested – whether they have symptoms or not – especially talking about businesses that are looking at reopening and trying to come up with reopening plans.
“It not only helps the businesses to know that their employees are testing negative, but it's going to help the coworkers to feel comfortable going back to work – if they know that their coworkers have been tested and are showing negative.”
Speaking with Wydysh on her afternoon LCTV update, Public Health Director Dan Stapleton said, “Once we get to around 7,000 tests done, then we can start making intelligent decisions about whether we're reaching people adequately; are we getting a handle on whether the numbers are increasing rapidly or whether they're decreasing. You need a certain amount of tests and amount of data to make smart decisions, and that's how we make our decisions – based on the medical data – so we can make smart decisions.”
Where to Get Tested
The number of sites performing coronavirus testing has increased in recent weeks.
•At the end of April, the New York State Department of Health set up a testing hub at Niagara County Community College. Residents can make an appointment by calling 888-364-3065 or online at covid19screening.health.ny.gov.
“I know the NCCC site can take up to 500 people a day, and they're not seeing that capacity,” Wydysh said. “We’re hearing that they are being very general and broad in their determination of who qualifies and who can have the test. But definitely for the businesses, we’re suggesting that they have everybody tested.”
•Last week, it was announced both Rite Aid and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center would begin testing.
Residents can visit the Rite Aid at 1030 Pine Ave., Niagara Falls, after completing a prescreening and making an appointment via www.riteaid.com.
NFMMC stated drive-thru testing would take place “by appointment from 8 a.m. to noon daily at the downtown Niagara Falls campus. Afternoon appointments will be available at Niagara County satellite sites from 1-5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.
“During the week of May 11, the afternoon test site will be behind the Summit Healthplex, 6934 Williams Road, Wheatfield. The following week, beginning May 18, it will take place at NFMMC’s Eastern Niagara County Health Home office, 80 Main St., Lockport.
“Testing will be overseen by Dr. Rajinder Bajwa, Memorial’s board-certified infectious disease specialist. He will be assisted by experienced nurses, mid-level providers and physicians from Memorial’s Family Medicine Residency Program. The COVID-19 lab tests will be analyzed by Kaleida Health’s medical laboratory.
“Pre-registration is required. Those being tested will be required to call 716-278-4496 to schedule an appointment and to provide a prescription from their primary care physician or other medical provider. A prescription may also be obtained from Bajwa and should be requested from the medical center when scheduling a test appointment.”
•Quest and WellNow also offer testing. More information is available HERE.
“We just heard that Quest is getting many, many more tests to have in not just our region, but I think three regions all together, so that they can help with meeting those metrics. I know Quest is going to have plenty of supplies. I believe Rite Aid was going to be well-stocked; Niagara Falls Memorial is doing them at the hospital and now at two satellite offices in Wheatfield and Lockport, as well, for a week each. So, there's a lot of testing sites out there. People should not have a problem at this point finding a place to be tested,” Wydysh said. “They might just need an order from their doctor, depending on which place they go. So that might be the bigger piece that they have to do. But I know Niagara Falls Memorial, Dr. Bajwa, who is running that testing facility, will help with a script, as well, if they can't get one or don't have their own doctor to get one from.”
What About Antibody Testing
Wydysh said, “The antibody testing really isn't offered by that many places yet. I think they're doing them at Quest and WellNow, but you still have to have an order from your doctor to get it done.
“And the further we go along, the more we're hearing that that's not as reliable as they thought maybe it was. A lot of people coming back with test results that maybe aren't accurate or, you know, in the beginning everybody thought if you got the virus once you couldn't get it again. So, if you were showing those antibodies, then you knew you were safe to be out and about. And now they're saying that is not necessarily the case.
“I mean, antibody testing can't hurt. The other reason that’s good is there's this talk of potentially donating your plasma to someone who is extremely ill – although I'm not hearing that’s happening around here. So, to know that you're eligible for that in the future could be a good thing, but I don't know that it helps right now.
“Neither test is a bad idea. They're both helpful to get for your peace of mind, if nothing else. But really right now, it's the diagnostic testing is the only one that factors into our metrics for reopening.”
Wydysh said, Monday to Monday, 2,000 Niagara County residents received a diagnostic test, and “about 12% of the individuals tested are coming back positive, which is a decline for us.”
Image courtesy of the Office of Andrew Cuomo.