Surveillance testing of Trinity Health employees for COVID-19 shows that a small number of staff tested positive for the virus, all of whom were asymptomatic.
Nearly 500 acute care, clinic, and Community Ambulance staff were tested earlier this week as part of Governor Burgum’s initiative to increase testing across all healthcare settings in North Dakota. The outcome shows the vast majority – 468 – testing negative for COVID-19. Fourteen tests came back positive. This is roughly a 3% positive rate, which is in line with statewide rates as testing continues to increase.
Vice President Randy Schwan says Trinity Health anticipated a few positive results, given that many people can be asymptomatic – showing no symptoms – while carrying the virus. “Healthcare workers, like all of us, live in our community and are at a certain risk for exposure,” he said. “This is why we take all the precautions we can to reduce spread and follow standardized protocols to test and treat individuals.”
Employees who test positive will follow guidelines modeled after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the North Dakota Department of Health. This involves self-isolating at home while being monitored for symptoms until they can safely return to work. Contact tracing will be conducted by First District Health Unit, and return-to-work guidelines will be followed.
Trinity Health will conduct more testing of their workforce in the coming days and weeks in an effort to reduce risk of exposure and help Public Health understand the scope of community spread in the area.
“Results of these tests, positive or negative, don’t change our commitment to maintain a safe environment for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patient care,” Schwan said. “Our practice has been to be prepared either way – hope for the best and plan for the worst. We are ready for any positive cases, whether patient or staff, and act quickly and thoroughly to manage and resolve the situation. Sentinel testing of healthcare workers is a beneficial step toward identifying and controlling the virus, and we look forward to the opportunity to conduct additional testing.”
He noted that Trinity Health took early intervention steps to protect patients, nursing home residents, and the community. Such actions include:
- Being among the first health systems in North Dakota to mandate employee masking and daily screening,
- Implementing visitor limitations and screening at entrances,
- Developing algorithms for inpatient and outpatient assessment for COVID symptoms and referral for treatment,
- Establishing well-defined environments of care for respiratory symptoms as well as other illnesses and conditions, both for inpatient and outpatient settings,
- Maintaining protocols to limit cross-contamination of COVID-19 and other viruses or bacteria commonly in the community, and
- Conducting virtual meetings to avoid gatherings.
“We are proud of the dedication our staff have shown during the pandemic and all they do to take care of our community,” Schwan added.