As of this writing, nearly 104,000 COVID-19 tests had been performed in Nevada. They identified more than 7,000 cases of the disease, which have led to 365 deaths. Anyone who pays attention to the news has by now heard public health officials say (many times) that without widespread testing, reopening the economy is folly.
“As we reopen the economy, we have to protect at-risk populations,” says Peter Pitts, a former FDA associate commissioner who’s now a visiting professor at Paris University’s medical school. “Unless we know who’s ill, we can’t keep other people out of their way.”
So, where do you get tested? A list of sites is below. But before you scroll down, there are a few things you should know, according to Pitts. First, there are two types of tests: viral, which determines whether you currently have COVID-19; and antibody or antigen, which determines whether you’ve had it in the past. Second, no test is useful — indeed, testing itself can’t succeed as pandemic-fighting weapon — unless it has what Pitts calls “the three Qs”: quality, quantity, and quickness.
This is why, he says, among viral tests, those based on saliva samples hold the most promise right now; they’re fast, accurate, and relatively easy to produce. Compare this to the blood tests used early in the pandemic, which are accurate, but may take days or weeks to process.
Antigen tests, on the other hand, have suffered from the FDA being “a little behind the 8-ball,” Pitts says. “Initially … they were allowing dozens of tests to be used that weren’t accurate. Subsequently, they’ve taken a step back and are now only allowing tests that have significant data to back up their reliability. But even so, the good tests have a 15-percent false negative rate.” (Abbott Laboratories’ rapid viral tests also have gotten some negative press recently.)
One way to find out about the accuracy of your test is to ask whether it has gotten an emergency use authorization, or EUA, from the FDA. There is no FDA-approved COVID-19 test, either viral or antigen, but the administration did issue EUAs based on preliminary studies in order to get the tests out to the public faster.
One antigen test that has an EUA is being offered at The Docs, a specialty practice group in the Rhodes Ranch neighborhood. Practice founder and endocrinologist Michael Uzmann says anybody who wants to, can go there and get the blood test, and most insurances cover the cost. For those with no insurance, it’s $55. Out of the 250 people they’ve tested, five have come back positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
“It’s important to do the antigen tests,” Uzmann says, “so that we can get an idea of penetration. As we reopen, we need an idea of numbers (infection rates), so we know the risks.”
Pitts adds that the convalescent antibodies in the blood system of people who’ve had virus could be used in transfusions to help infected people get through disease easier. “Also, having had disease may give you immunity,” he says. “Generally, with viruses you have some degree of immunity, but it may not be 100 percent. That’s still under investigation” (including at the UNR School of Medicine’s State Public Health Laboratory).
So, don’t throw caution to the wind if you’ve tested positive (or, for that matter, negative). But, do get tested. And one last reminder: If you have symptoms of COVID-19, the first thing to do is contact your doctor.
Now … about where to get that test:
City of Henderson – May 19-20, Henderson is offering free community-wide, drive-through testing at Fiesta Henderson, 777 W. Lake Mead Parkway. To make an appointment, go to the city’s website or call 702-267-4636.
City Serve Las Vegas – A nonprofit group of churches and faith-based clinics called City Serve Las Vegas is offering tests Saturdays at rotating locations around Southern Nevada. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the group is also offering both spiritual and practical support to those who test positive. To make an appointment and see a list of items you will need to take with you, visit the group’s website.
Clark County – The County, University Medical Center, and Clinical Pathology Laboratories are doing some 1,200 by-appointment, drive-through tests per day, seven days a week, at the Orleans Hotel & Casino at 4500 West Tropicana Avenue. The tests are free and open to anyone, whether they have symptoms or not. (To make sure, I went to be tested symptom-free and had no problem. I tested negative, btw.) To make an appointment, go to www.umcsn.com or call 702-795-5932. For a list of testing locations in the county, click here and scroll down past the logos (look for “COVID-19 Testing”).
Las Vegas Convention Center – In preparation for the gaming industry’s reopening, the Culinary Union, Las Vegas Convention Center, UMC, and several resorts collaborated on a plan to test thousands of hospitality workers per day. It’s scheduled to begin May 21. The companies and organizations involved said in a news release that they would notify their employees directly with details about how to get tested.
UNLV – People who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 can get a drive-through test by appointment on the university’s medical school campus between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. To start the appointment-making process, click here or call 702-583-4408.
Walmart – Since May 18, there have been 10 drive-through testing sites in Walmart parking lots in Clark County, Elko, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Reno. These sites will test adults who meet CDC, state, and local guidance on who should be tested, with priority given to individuals in high-risk groups and to those who have symptoms. Quest Diagnostics, state and local governments, and Walmart are running these sites. For a list of locations and the times each is open, go to www.MyQuestCOVIDTest.com or call 866-448-7719.
One final note on testing, on May 18, the Southern Nevada Health District said it had implemented an automated notification system for people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19. It’s meant to help investigators get in touch with patients more quickly to disrupt the chain of the disease’s transmission. Patients will receive an e-mail or text message from the address firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-718-7075, respectively. The process includes identity authentication steps to protect their confidentiality.
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