CLAY COUNTY — The county public health center now offers free COVID-19 testing for Clay County residents whether they have symptoms or not as those with COVID-19 can be symptomatic or asymptomatic.
“Our current test is (through the nose) and tests for those that are currently infected with COVID-19. Reliable antibody testing that can determine whether someone has ever had COVID-19 is not yet available,” states the Clay County Public Health Center website, www.clayhealth.com.
Testing will be done by appointment on weekdays. To be tested, a person must first fill out a testing questionnaire.
“If testing is available for you, health department staff will be in contact with you shortly to schedule an appointment,” states the public health site. “Watch your phone and email closely, allowing unknown calls and checking your spam folders.”
The health center site is able to administer 75 tests per day.
“Demand for testing differs day to day, but lately we have been testing below capacity, so do not hesitate to fill out the questionnaire,” states the site.
Clay County Public Health Center began offering drive-thru testing April 22 in the parking lot of Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, located at 1600 N. Missouri Highway 291 in Liberty. Originally, testing was only available to those with symptoms.
In addition to free testing from county health for Clay County residents, for-cost testing is also offered at various locations across the Northland. For a list of other testing sites, visit the county public health center’s site and click on the link for COVID-19 testing.
The announcement of additional free testing for asymptomatic county residents is in alignment with the county health center’s overall recovery plan, currently in step No. 1 after health center Director Gary Zaborac lifted countywide stay-home orders Monday, May 4.
Under the order, all businesses were allowed to reopen although some have occupancy limits based on the building’s fire code and square footage. While businesses were allowed to open, the health center recovery plan states no business or organization is required to open and that there are “must-do tasks” as well as precautions that should be taken in all phases of recovery.
Included for residents in the first step is:
• wearing face masks when in public;
• frequent hand-washing;
• physical distancing with 6 feet between each person; and
• avoidance of visitation to places with vulnerable populations like senior housing or long-term care facilities and travel destinations.
“Until a vaccine or other therapeutic interventions become available, some level of social distancing will be required,” states the plan. “... There is still much about COVID-19 that we do not know. We do not know whether this will end up being seasonal. … This plan is based on the best information that is currently available and may change as our knowledge improves.”
Current infection rates
Although the county health center allowed reopening of businesses and facilities this week, it does not mean COVID-19 infections have ceased. While infection rates remain low, overall cases reported in Clay County continue to rise. According to a digital dashboard accessible through the county public health site, there were 237 total positive cases reported in Clay County between the public health center and Kansas City Health Department as of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 5. The dashboard breaks case counts down by city. In addition, the public health center’s tracing map includes case counts by age, race and sex. The majority of cases reported by the health center occur in white females and those aged 45 to 64.
If county residents do not follow guidelines in the recovery plan, health officials say COVID-19 infection rates could drastically spike, triggering a second round of closures of businesses, facilities and entities.
“This is the first week into our recovery phase and although we are helping businesses and organizations get their questions answered, our biggest focus is on spreading awareness about those main ideas of prevention,” said public health Communications Specialist Kelsey Neth. “Those include physical distancing, staying home when sick or if you’re high-risk, wearing a mask in public, … (being) diligent about hand-washing/sanitation and keeping surfaces clean.”