Region 5 medical director gives update on COVID-19 testing

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 7:46 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - COVID-19 restrictions are easing up across the state, and it seems testing for the potentially deadly virus has taken a back seat to vaccinations.

Local health care professionals say it shouldn’t be one or the other.

It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago, Southwest Louisiana held one of the Nation’s highest positivity rates of the virus. With about 80,000 vaccines distributed so far throughout the region, it may seem as though testing isn’t needed anymore.

However, Region 5 Medical Director Lacey Cavanaugh says it still holds a vital aspect in curbing transmition of the virus.

”For a long time, we were the only region that was red on the map for many weeks,” Dr. Cavanaugh said.

That’s certainly not the case anymore.

”Almost a year ago now, we were testing 359 people per 10,000 residents,” Dr. Cavanaugh said.

She says we’ve now reached a stage in the pandemic where access and action towards testing are more easily measured.

Region 5 now has a moderate risk infection rate of COVID-19 transmission
Region 5 now has a moderate risk infection rate of COVID-19 transmission((Source: KPLC))

”If you ever had a test at the very beginning you would not forget it, because it’s uncomfortable and makes your eyes water a little bit. It goes all the way to the back wall of your nose. But the nasal swab which we’ve been doing now for many many many months, it’s probably been well over a year that we’ve started to just do the nasal tip, is a lot more comfortable,” Dr. Cavanaugh said.

Testing in Region 5 is now down to 97 people per 10,000 residents across the five-parish region, but it’s not our lowest average.

”Obviously, a substantial drop since our peak but lots of reasons for that. We have a portion of the population vaccinated, and we’re not asking people who are vaccinated to test unless they become symptomatic,” Dr. Cavanaugh said.

She says the number of natural disasters the area has faced also played a factor. However, with a ramp-up in vaccines, and now even at-home testing options, the possibility that community testing sites will close doesn’t seem likely for our area.

”We think community testing is important to make sure that people have access to that. But is it going to go into next year or beyond September? I don’t think we know the answer to that. It depends on what COVID looks like in our communities,” Dr. Cavanaugh said.

In terms of testing, Region 5 community testing sites are still seeing a variety of demographics and age groups getting tested. However, current stats show positive cases favor the 30 to 39 age range.

One big change from this time last year at the community testing sites is that they’re now using rapid molecular testing in addition to the popular PCR test. Results for the PCR test are now available within 1 to 2 days.

Click here for a list of COVID-19 Vaccine Locations in Louisiana.

The COVID-19 vaccine data published below is via the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

Louisiana COVID-19 Vaccine Information
Louisiana COVID-19 Vaccine Information((Source: KPLC))

Click here for a map of the LDH regions.

Initiated vaccine series counts all individuals who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in a non-trial setting. Individuals are still counted as having initiated their vaccine series even after they complete said series.

Completed vaccine series counts all individuals who have received the recommended number of doses of a given COVID-19 vaccine and are not recommended to receive any more. Individuals who have completed their vaccine series are also counted as having initiated their vaccine series.

Unvaccinated is calculated by subtracting the number of individuals who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from the total population of the specific region.

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