San Miguel County claims it will be the first county in the country to test all of its residents for the coronavirus using a blood draw instead of the widespread method of administering oral and nasal swabs.
San Miguel officials announced Wednesday that the county will partner with United Biomedical Inc., a biopharmaceutical company that develops immunotherapeutics and vaccines for chronic and infectious diseases, to detect and contain the coronavirus.
“This will drastically advance our ability to assess the presence of the virus in our county and allow us to focus isolation strategies,” said Grace Franklin, director of public health for the county, in a news release.
Founded in 1983, United Biomedical is a multinational company headquartered in Hauppauge, N.Y., according to its website.
The plan was announced at an “emergency” meeting of the county commissioners. San Miguel had a population of 7,359 in the 2010 census, and the county seat is Telluride. The Telluride Ski Resort is closed.
Officials plan to test the “entire county,” free of charge. Testing will be administered by the county health department.
“Individuals who agree to be tested will receive a simple blood draw by a health care provider,” the news release said. “Tests will then be sent to a lab with results projected to be available within two days. The test ideally will be repeated in 14 days so public health officials can gauge if the rate of infection is increasing or decreasing.”
In the past two days, coronavirus cases in children under age 4 have been reported in the county. Several critically ill residents have been hospitalized.
“We’ve entered a new and concerning phase that requires swift action. We have an opportunity to arrest the spread of COVID-19 and potential loss of life,” Dr. Sharon Grundy, county medical officer, said in the release.
The county has ordered residents to “shelter in place” and gatherings of more than ten people are prohibited. Visitors to the county have been “directed” to return home immediately.
“Our actions now seem exaggerated to some, but let me assure you all, any actions we want to take later will be severely inadequate,” Dr. Grundy said.
Logistics of the plan, including timing and locations, are being worked out and will soon be announced.