Merit Health: No COVID-19 testing unless patient presents symptoms or meets criteria

Published 5:53 pm Friday, March 20, 2020

Thinking about getting tested for COVID-19 as a precautionary measure?

Merit Health River Region is reserving tests unless you present symptoms or meet certain criteria, said Merit Health River Region CEO Ben Richaud on a call with Warren County Chamber of Commerce members Thursday morning.

“We continue to receive a lot of questions about testing asymptomatic patients, whether that’s people in the community that are just inquiring about if they should be tested or whether that’s employers in the community that say, ‘Hey, I want to get my personnel tested prior to their return to work.’

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“I want to be very clear on this,” he continued. “The guidance on testing has not changed. You need to very clearly understand that testing an asymptomatic patient … is not a reliable or a predicted way to either help stop the spread of the virus or determine who may become symptomatic in the future. (COVID-19 has) a 14 day incubation period, so an asymptomatic patient may test negative one day, but they may still develop symptoms after receiving that negative result.”

In this scenario, asymptomatic means that a patient does not show signs or symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.

Richaud said symptoms and criteria for COVID-19 testing include:

Fever of 100.4 or higher

Upper respiratory issues like coughing, wheezing and/or shortness of breath

If the patient has traveled, been out of the country or visited one of the areas defined by the Center for Disease Control as an area of concern

If the patient has been directly exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19

Richaud said Merit Health River Region would not test patients if they do not present the symptoms above or meet the criteria listed above.

“Doing so is discouraged at the state level, it’s discouraged at the national level,” he said. “It consumes resources and it’s not a prediction of who is going to get sick.”

Richaud ended with a simple request to employers not to send employees to the emergency room if they are asymptomatic.


Editor’s clarification: An earlier version of this story included a sentence that could have been misinterpreted as Merit Health River Region CEO Ben Richaud saying that patients were ‘out of luck’ if they wanted to get precautionary tests. This phrase was not in quotes in the earlier version and was not said by  Richaud. We apologize for any confusion.

About Catherine Hadaway

Catherine Hadaway, as The Vicksburg Post’s publisher, oversees the business operations of the newspaper. She is a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala. and is a graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis where she earned bachelor’s degrees in Business and Religion. She is a Director of Boone Newsmedia, Inc., the family company that owns The Post. Catherine comes from a long line of newspaper publishers, starting with her grandfather, Buford Boone, who served as publisher of The Tuscaloosa News and earned journalism's highest honor when he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for his editorial titled "What a Price for Peace." Catherine is a member of The Rotary Club of Vicksburg, Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg, The Heritage Guild, The Sampler Antique Club and The Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Executive Committee.

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