Health Department Confirms Testing Criteria Will Be Loosened At COVID-19 Site | WGLT

Health Department Confirms Testing Criteria Will Be Loosened At COVID-19 Site

Apr 4, 2020

Local, state, and federal officials confirmed Saturday afternoon that COVID-19 testing criteria will be loosened further at Bloomington's drive-up site.

In a statement around 4:45 p.m. Saturday, the McLean County Health Department confirmed an earlier WGLT report that the testing criteria would be loosened to include more people. The health department apologized for the earlier confusion and thanked WGLT for its "meticulousness in getting accurate news to the public."

The state-run site at the Interstate Center has been underutilized since opening March 28. Around 726 people have been tested in the past seven days—less than half of the site’s 250-per-day capacity.

One explanation was the restrictive criteria for who can be tested. Until now, only symptomatic seniors (65+), health care workers, first responders, and patients with underlying conditions could be tested. An additional requirement—showing a fever of 100.4 or above—was lifted after a slow first day. Those under age 16 cannot be tested.

Local and state public health officials told WGLT that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was in charge of setting the testing criteria. In an email Saturday morning, HHS told WGLT “the testing site was allowed to expand the criteria as long as they abide by the screening criterion in the attached document.”

That attached document shows a “Priority 3” tier of patients who can be tested “as resources allow.” That tier includes many new people who were excluded from testing previously:

  • Critical infrastructure workers with symptoms
  • Any individual with symptoms
  • Health care facility workers and first responders without symptoms
  • Individuals with mild symptoms in communities experiencing high numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations

In its 4:45 p.m. Saturday statement, the McLean County Health Department confirmed that those Priority 3 patients are indeed "eligible for testing" in Bloomington. State officials also confirmed the change.

Individuals without symptoms are still considered a nonpriority for testing. There are no residency restrictions on who can be tested at Bloomington’s site. You don’t have to be a resident of McLean County to go there.

The clarifications came after a confusing back-and-forth Saturday about who could be tested. After WGLT's report Saturday morning, the McLean County Emergency Management Agency responded in a Facebook post around 11:30 a.m.:

"A local media source has shared that the testing site criteria has been loosened to allow for testing of more individuals. We have been in contact with the Incident Commander at the site and they have NOT received orders for such a change. The current criteria will remain in place until a change of orders from IDPH is received."

Subsequently, the McLean County Health Department said WGLT's report was inaccurate.

"There was a request made to relax the guidelines and it was denied," said MCHD spokesperson Dion McNeal.

There have been 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in McLean County to date, including two deaths.

The testing site at the McLean County Fairgrounds (Interstate Center) is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.