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Labs play critical role during pandemic

Labs are experiencing slow volume during the COVID-19 pandemic and are calling for support during Medical Laboratory Professionals Week. Like other businesses hit hard by stay-at-home orders and the subsequent economic crisis, many medical laboratories are losing revenue and facing reduced staffing hours.Most other businesses, however, don’t play a significant medical role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and finding a way back to normal through testing. Medical and public health labs are the only businesses that detect infections and viruses like SARS-CoV-2 for diagnostic purposes.“We are always there to perform testing for detecting infections, cross matching blood for transfusion, performing chemistry and hematology testing, detecting cancerous diseases and so much more,” said Dr. Rodney E. Rohde, professor and chair of the Clinical Laboratory Science program at Texas State University. “The positions require technical expertise and pro fessional judgment. During this pandemic another set of complex tests has been added to our arsenal. We are essential in determining whether you have the infection and that drives many subsequent medical decisions.”Rohde said that because of the way governments have responded with delaying elective surgeries and other medical procedures, there is reduced testing to run in the labs. Patients aren’t going to their doctors for their routine cholesterol checks or STD screenings.He urges government officials to support the professionals and the labs that run the tests to ensure they stay operational throughout the crisis.“Though we may not realize it until we are in need of disease detection, diagnosis and treatment, laboratory testing plays a crucial role in our health-care system,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in his proclamation for Medical Laboratory Professionals week. “These dedicated men and women are invaluable members of medical teams across the Lone Star State, and their contributions are critical to meeting the health care needs of our state on not only a daily basis but also during public health emergencies, such as during the present coronavirus pandemic.”There are about 310,000 medical lab professionals in the United States who have been through rigorous training and education to become credentialed and certified to serve 331 million people, equaling one lab professional for every 1,067 Americans. The results of the tests they perform enable educated decisions by physicians, nurses, policymakers, government officials and many others.“When you hear about drive-thru COVID-19 testing centers, what you are really observing is the important first step in the testing process, the collection of a specimen,” Rohde said. “This is often performed by a physician, nurse or medical assistant. The testing itself occurs in hospital laboratories, reference laboratories and public health laboratories and is performed by medical laboratory scientists and technicians with the leadership and support from pathologists and our other medical laboratory professionals.” Hays County has several test collection centers but fewer labs: Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL) is a designated lab for the county referred tests and Labcorps and Quest Diagnostics are each running tests collected from private collection sites. Labcorps and Quest Diagnostics are running 40,000-45,000 COVID-19 tests per day nationwide.When talking about testing supply shortages, there is more to diagnosing COVID-19 than the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) molecular test that most government officials and physicians are trying to get their hands on.“What I’m hearing from laboratorians in the trenches is they may have plenty of lab tests, but the lab test is not the complete picture,” Rohde said. “Preanalytical material is a complete other supply chain issue. If you have a hospital lab with 1,000 test capability because you have 20 kits that each run 50 samples, but you only have 30 specimen swabs, you are only going to test 30.”For every molecular test, used for diagnosing real time viral infection, there has to be a nasopharyngeal swab and viral transport media.

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Shops beginning to reopen

Many of the shops on the Wimberley Square, and throughout town, have begun the process of opening their doors. Over the weekend, retail establishments were allowed to open for curbside service and soon they will be allowed to begin letting limited numbers of customers inside.

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P.O. Box 49
Wimberley, TX 78676
Phone: 512-847-2202
Fax: 512-847-9054