As of this writing, more than 1.6 million COVID-19 tests have been performed in Nevada. They identified more than 152,000 confirmed cases of the disease, which have led to 2,144 deaths. Anyone who pays attention to the news has by now heard public health officials say (many times) that without widespread testing, reopening schools and businesses risks increasing infections.
“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, 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.
Antibody 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.)
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 antibody, but the administration did issue EUAs based on preliminary studies in order to get the tests out to the public faster.
Pitts says 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 primary care doctor.
Now … about where to get that test. A list of sites for viral testing follows. Others are available on the Southern Nevada Health District's calendar and the state's COVID-19 response website. Various clinics and labs are now offering antibody testing, but the surest route is through your doctor.
City Serve Las Vegas – A nonprofit group of churches and faith-based clinics called City Serve Las Vegas offers tests on select Saturday mornings at rotating locations around Southern Nevada. The group is also offering both spiritual and practical support to those who test positive. To check locations and see a list of items you will need to take with you, visit the group’s website.
Clark County – Working with University Medical Center, Nevada National Guard, UNLV, and other partners, the county is running three testing sites. All are free and open to the public, with or without symptoms. However, due to high test demand, the county asks the community to help prioritize testing for people who have symptoms or have been exposed to confirmed-positive patients. Take a photo ID and wear a mask when going to one of the three following locations.
CCSD - The county and community partners are offering free, walk-in testing to the public at select high school gymnasiums on select weekends. No appointment is required. Dates and locations are as follows:
Free testing is available to Clark County School District employees through the Taskforce Iniative for Educator Safety and Screening (TIES) program.
CVS Pharmacy - The prolific pharmacy chain has numerous drive-up testing locations throughout the Las Vegas Valley. Tests are available by appointment only to people who meet CDC and state-specific criteria, though no doctor's referral is required. They're free whether you have insurance or not. A CVS MinuteClinic staffer oversees the test administration. This page has more information and a link to find locations for an appointment.
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. Information and registration are available here.
Mesquite - The city is operating community testing for residents of Bunkerville, Mesquite, Mohave County and Moapa Valley on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Fire Station 1 behind the Mesquite City Hall. To learn more and schedule an appointment, click here.
Walmart – There are several drive-through testing sites in Walmart parking lots in Clark County, Elko, Henderson, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Reno. These sites will test adults who meet CDC, state, and local guidance on who should be tested, including individuals in high-risk groups who have no 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.
A final note on testing: Health officials are asking the public to help disrupt the spread of COVID-19 by assisting in contact tracing. Respond to disease investigators, who will e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org or call from 702-718-7075, and download the Nevada COVID Trace App at https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/covidtrace.
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