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Two COVID-19 milestones

Two COVID-19 milestones
Spectrum Health has processed more than 1 million COVID-19 tests and administered more than 500,000 vaccines in the fight against the virus. (Chris Clark | Spectrum Health Beat)

1 million COVID-19 tests administered.

500,000 vaccines vaccines.

Spectrum Health has crossed those two big milestones in the 18-month battle against COVID-19.

Reaching the million-test mark is “bittersweet,” said Roger Smith, Spectrum Health director of laboratory services.

“I think it’s amazing—a testament to our staff and their commitment to helping out our community,” he said.

“But I never thought we would get to 1 million tests. I didn’t think we would have to get this far.”

Vaccines offer hope

Keith Hustak, Spectrum Health vice president of advanced practice provider services and operations, stressed the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine in addressing the pandemic.

Defensive measures, such as handwashing, wearing face masks and social distancing, also can help curb the spread of the virus. But the vaccine “is the first offensive weapon we have against this disease,” he said.

“I urge everybody to do their research, look at the Centers for Disease Control website, and talk to their providers,” he said. “Understand that the risk of side effects is very low.”

Ramping up tests

COVID-19 testing has evolved dramatically since it began in March 2020, said Carrissa Stalsonburg, RN, the site lead for a Spectrum Health testing and vaccination site at 1300 Michigan St. NE.

For the first tests, team members obtained specimens from both sides of the nose and the throat. That quickly evolved to a nasopharyngeal swab.

The first tests were processed by the state. But in about a week, Spectrum Health’s lab began to process them.

“We have ebbed and flowed with our volumes,” Stalsonburg said. “We often see volume increases pretty rapidly and decreases pretty rapidly, as well.”

To meet the demand for tests, the Spectrum Health lab increased staffing significantly and began to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“To be able to ramp up (testing) from tens of samples a day to over 5,000 samples a day was simply amazing,” Smith said.

Now that West Michigan is in the midst of a surge in COVID-19 cases, team members are administering 1,100 to 1,200 COVID-19 tests a day. The average seven-day positivity rate for tests is 12.8%

Those who have symptoms of COVID-19 may schedule testing through their provider or through Spectrum Health MyChart.

For those without symptoms who are interested in a test, Stalsonburg advised going to to find a testing site.

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