WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Area Aspirus facilities have increased the number of people getting tested for COVID-19 by approximately 71 percent since expanding testing criteria in late-April.
Dr. Thomas Voelker, Chief Medical Officer for Aspirus Riverview Hospital & Clinics, said Aspirus was previously following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to test only patients who met certain criteria, such as those who were hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms or who were first responders or health workers.
“Under the previous recommendations, people with mild symptoms were not getting tested,” said Voelker. “Now, we are able to test those patients after they are screened.”
Test specimens collected at Aspirus Riverview Hospital, Aspirus Riverview Clinic and Aspirus Doctors Clinic – all located in Wisconsin Rapids – are sent to either Aspirus Wausau Hospital’s lab or to a reference lab for testing, Voelker said. Results are typically available for hospitalized patients in 1-2 days and for others in 4-7 days.
COVID-19 symptoms include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, headache, sore throat and loss of taste or smell, according to the CDC. Voelker encourages anyone with these symptoms to call the Aspirus COVID-19 Call Center at 1-844-568-0701 or their Aspirus clinic for guidance.
Increased testing capacity is also enabling Aspirus to reschedule appointments and procedures that had previously been postponed. “If you have a health concern, please don’t hesitate to seek care,” said Voelker. “We are now able to see many patients who had their appointments postponed due to the pandemic.”
While the Aspirus Riverview clinics in Rome, Nekoosa and Adams remain temporarily closed, Voelker wants those patients to know that their providers are still caring for patients at the Aspirus Riverview Clinic in Wisconsin Rapids. “You can call the same clinic number you always did,” Voelker said. “Those phones have been forwarded to someone who will help you schedule an appointment with your provider.”
Many patients worry about whether it is safe to go to a hospital or clinic. “While we understand the concern and appreciate the caution, you can be assured our hospitals and clinics are very safe,” said Voelker. “We screen every person who enters our facilities – patients and staff. Additionally, Aspirus Riverview has not had any patients who tested positive for COVID-19 inside our facilities, and just one patient who tested positive in March at one of our drive-up testing sites.”
For those who still have concerns, Voelker pointed out that there are alternatives to delaying an appointment. “Some appointments can now be provided over the phone or with a video visit. For details about these options, you can call your Aspirus clinic or visit aspirus.org.”