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Free COVID Tests Offered for Asymptomatic People
Wednesday, November 4, 2020


Free COVID tests are now being offered to asymptomatic people in an effort to suppress the spread of the coronavirus in the Wood River Valley.

The goal is to more quickly identify who has a COVID-19 infection so they can more quickly self-quarantine, reducing the chances they’ll spread the virus to others.

The COVID Outreach Wood River is a collaboration between St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation and Dr. Tom Archie, who runs InnerHealth MD, PC family practice in Ketchum.

The tests, which involve COVID-19 Viral Detection Nasal Swab PCR testing, arrived on Tuesday. Until now, such testing has been available in the Wood River Valley only for those with symptoms.

“Expanded viral detection testing—combined with social distancing, wearing masks and frequent hand washing—is part of a strategy to suppress the pandemic and keep our people healthy and our economy strong,” said Archie.

The website for COVID Outreach Wood River goes live today. And testing will begin Thursday, Nov. 5. Tests will be processed onsite in one of six machines divvyed up between testing sites in Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue.

The rapid processing will eliminate the backlog that has often occurred with COVID testing locally and nationally during the past several months said Megan Tanous, chief development officer for St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation.

“Most of what we will be using at the testing sites will be rapid tests reported that same day, said Archie. “Some of what we will be using and most of what we will use if we go out to a mobile site will be overnight result tests.”

 The project was inspired by a story Archie heard on NPR about a family physician in Philadelphia who  set up mobile testing sites in African-American neighborhoods with little access to testing.

Archie spent about a month researching how to set up such tests under Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services guidelines. Dr. Terry O’Conner, with whom he’s been working on a COVID research project, steered him to the Foundation.

St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation was excited to help fund it, said Tanous.

“We funded several technologies to assist St. Luke’s with testing. I know this is not a silver bullet, but we know it’s an important tool. We had a couple of donors who were very passionate about expanding testing and, so, this ended up being a great synergy of vision and altruistic intentions,” she said.

“This investment is one strategy to help suppress the pandemic in the Wood River Valley,” added Megan Dawson Edwards, president of St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation. “We are incredibly grateful for Dr. Archie’s vision and the generosity of the community that has made this effort a reality.”

The project will prioritize those who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 or who have an upcoming out-of-area medical procedure requiring testing.

St. Luke’s Wood River currently tests incoming patients about to undergo medical procedures at its site. But, Archie noted, he had to spend the better part of a day recently arranging a test for one of his clients ahead of her operation in Tacoma, Wash.

The test can be used by asymptomatic people who need a test before embarking on travel or visiting high-risk family members.

It will also serve those who are symptomatic but have difficulty accessing testing. Other symptomatic patients should continue to access testing through St. Luke’s Health Clinic.

In addition to going to sites of outbreaks, COVID Outreach Wood River is considering periodic screening of people who live or work in close contact with many others. That could include those living at The Advocates shelter, the men’s transitional housing or even Sun Valley Resort’s employee dorms—places where there’s a high chance of spread if someone is infected.

Positives will be referred to the South Central Public Health Department for tracing.

Archie says neither the Sun Valley area nor the nation have done enough testing. In early October a study determined that the United States was doing a million tests a day--double what it was doing in June. But, it said, it would take four million tests a day—four times what’s being done now—to control the virus. It would take 14 million tests a day to suppress it.

“By doubling, quadrupling or even testing 10 times more than we are now, we can have a sizable impact on whether we will have a viable community with people working this winter,” Archie said.

Archie said he expects the increase in testing to raise positive numbers initially. But by Christmas, he believes, increased testing will have pulled enough people out of circulation with infections that the number of cases will drop.

“It’s like Swiss cheese,” he said, using an analogy he heard from a behavioral specialist at Harvard University. “If you use Swiss cheese to make a sandwich, it doesn’t take many layers before you can look down and all the holes are covered.

“Using just masks or just social distancing means you’re still going to find some holes in coverage. But layer those together with enough testing and the aggregate effect is considerably stronger than if you just try one or two remedies.”

COVID Outreach Wood River is trying hard to make sure members of the Latino community—many of whom don’t go online or to social media regularly—are covered, Archie said.

The COVID Outreach Wood River website is currently in English, but Spanish speakers can click on the Google Translate button to help bridge the language barrier. Information and the scheduling questionnaire will be translated into Spanish in the coming weeks, and organizers hope to have Spanish language interpreter services in place by mid-November.

Testing locations are on bus lines and near bus stops, and weekend testing is offered on Saturdays in Bellevue.


DRIVE-UP TESTING sites are currently located in:

  • Ketchum at the Lupine Building, 220 S. 2nd Ave., Suite 103 on Mondays and Thursdays
  • Hailey at the Blaine County School District Office, 118 Bullion St., on Tuesdays and Fridays
  • Bellevue at South Central Public Health, 117 Ash St. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Mobile outreach testing onsite at businesses, schools and other organizations with at least 10 people to be tested can be arranged.

Those being tested are asked not to enter buildings but to look for signage outside. Test samples will be collected from people as they sit in their cars.

SCHEDULING A TEST: Tests must be scheduled online only at

Someone should strongly consider getting tested if they’ve been within six foot of someone who has gotten sick or tested positive for more than 15 minutes, even if they’ve worn a mask, Archie said. They should also be tested if they’ve been in contact with an infected person without a mask for more than a few minutes or if they’ve been coughed on or sneezed on by someone.

If Dad goes home and has dinner with his wife and children after close contact with an infected person, that’s considered indirect contact. The wife and children do not need to get tested unless Dad ends up developing symptoms or testing positive.

Those who have no symptoms but were exposed should test five to eight days after close contact exposure. Those with symptoms should test two to three days after onset of symptoms.

Test results should be available within 24 to 36 hours. Those who have been tested should stay in isolation until they’ve received a negative result.

People will not be tested for other infections, such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, Epstein-Barr virus or strep throat. They will not be given a physical examination or offered medical advice.

And they will not be tested for antibodies to see if they had the virus weeks or months ago or if they still have antibodies following an infection

The web page includes information concerning what to do if a test is positive or negative.


Contact or call 208-806-1014. Want to support the effort? Visit

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