Due to the scarcity of COVID-19 testing kits in the United States, novel coronavirus testing has mostly been limited to people with convincing symptoms or known contact with COVID-19 patients. Now a group of businesses is working to change that in Idaho.
“We have been woefully undertesting in Idaho,” said Tommy Ahlquist, CEO of BVA Development, who is spearheading the Crush the Curve Idaho effort. “I am proud of the coalition of business leaders who have stepped up to help solve this problem at a time of crisis.”
The plan is to test all of Idaho’s essential workers to avoid inadvertently spreading COVID-19 from essential workers to others and get all Idahoans back to work.
The business group has secured enough material to conduct 1,000 COVID-19 tests daily. The tests are available for essential workers who are in contact with the public because of the demands of their employment: health care workers in direct patient care, first responders, grocery store and convenience store workers, home health and senior care workers, food service workers and delivery drivers.
Crush the Curve Idaho started testing essential workers on April 8 in the Treasure Valley region.
“This initiative is targeting employees with mild symptoms who are on the frontline at risk every day and do not have access to testing,” said Ed Castledine, CEO of Saltzer Health, one of the businesses behind Crush The Curve Idaho.
Any essential worker can visit CrushTheCurveIdaho.com to take a simple assessment, which requires less than five minutes. The assessment asks for contact information, occupation, potential contact with someone who might have COVID-19 and symptoms. Those who meet the assessment criteria will be contacted to schedule a testing appointment at the nearest testing center.
“We put this together very fast,” said Camille Blaylock at Ball Ventures Ahlquist. “We started with testing in the Treasure Valley today (April 8) but things have moved so fast just in the last 24 hours that we got most of the state covered already. Someone might have to drive 45 minutes to a testing center, but probably no further.”
The COVID-19 test will be billed to medical insurance, though some businesses such as Jackson Food Stores paid to test all essential workers.
Test results will be available within two business days. Any positive test results will also be sent to the state so that the local public health district can assist in tracing anyone who came into contact with the test recipient to help stop the spread.
“I think this is just a wonderful thing,” said Hydee DasGupta, a hospital nurse who lives in Boise. “We face patients every day but we can’t be tested with a sore throat or stuffy nose because the tests have been needed for really ill people. This makes me happy that someone thought ahead to do this for those of us who need to keep working.”
Crush the Curve Idaho is also actively sourcing antibody tests, though when those will be available has not been announced yet. An antibody test can determine if a person has built up an immunity to the COVID-19 virus and therefore is safe to engage in the community. The group sees this as the key to getting people out of their homes and back to the workplace.
“We are doing our best to navigate this crisis, but we need testing,” said Kent Oram, CEO of Idaho Central Credit Union. “We need action. And we need a pathway back to work while keeping our people safe.”
CrushTheCurveIdaho.com founding companies are A10 Capital, Albertsons, Athlos, B&T Hospitality, Ball Ventures, Blue Cross of Idaho, Brighton Corporation, BVA Development, Clearwater Analytics, Idaho Central Credit Union, Jacksons Food Stores, Old Boise, Rexburg Motor Sports, Saltzer Health, Teton Auto Group, Tovuti LMS, Woodgrain and Zennify.