When it comes to rapid COVID-19 testing, the process of actually getting the necessary equipment, approval, and certification to offer said testing is anything but rapid, according to Melissa Hugget, the Director of Client Relations for Wyoming Health Fairs. Still, WHF knew how important it was to be another resource for the community during such unprecedented times, so they put in the time and the work and, now, Wyoming Health Fairs is proud to offer rapid COVID-19 testing to Natrona County.

But it didn’t happen overnight.

“We started this process in June,” Hugget stated. “Tammy Radden, our Director of Clinical Services, spearheaded everything. She initiated contact with the company and got us through our certification, which is a CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment) certification. That is required in order to conduct these tests.”

Following that, Hugget said, it was just a waiting game and a matter of patience.

“After getting certified, we just had to be persistent and follow up with delivery dates and shipping,” Hugget said. “We got the testing machines the week before Thanksgiving and we got the swab separately the following week and then we were able to begin the training process. And Tammy saw all of that through, from start to finish.”

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Hugget stated that rapid tests are now being offered 7 days a week from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., by appointment only, but the entire process should only take about 25 minutes, according to Tandi Rinker, the Executive Director of Wyoming Health Fairs.

“The process works like this,” she said. “A patient will make an appointment, and we can do day-of. They will come in and we still require temperature checks. We still require masks. Then they’ll go through data entry, which is the paperwork portion. Then, one of our team members will swab their nose and, despite the rumors, it’s not clear up to the brain. The whole process takes about 25 minutes from the time they walk in the door until we have a result, but we ask that they wait for the result in their car. Once we have the result, we let them know they’re available. They come in, we give them their envelope and that’s it.”

It’s a relatively simple process, for both the provider and the patient. The price of the test is cheaper than at other locations, with just a $75 total charge. There are no hidden or extra fees, but Hugget did emphasize that it was an out of pocket cost.

“The one thing that’s different with us, compared to other entities offering testing is that we do require payment up front,” she said. “Regardless of their insurance status, we do require out-of-pocket, but we’re a preferred provider for Blue Cross Blue Shield and we will submit a claim on behalf of the patient and that will get reimbursed to the patient. There’s a lot of talk out there about insurance status, and costs of these tests and there’s a lot of unknown factors, but we want to be as transparent and upfront as we can be.”

Typically, COVID tests can range from $85-$200, so the $75 cost is being offered with the community in mind. Another big reason WHF has started offering Rapid tests is to alleviate some of the burden that other medical clinics are currently under.

“As we’ve seen the cases increase recently, part of the motivation behind starting to do these rapid tests is because we’ve seen our colleagues at different clinics, like the Respiratory Clinic, Cedars Health, Urgent Care, and more and we know the burden that has been placed on their staff,” Hugget stated. “From a convenience standpoint, I think it’s good to offer something else for people, so these other clinics don’t have to carry all of the weight.”

She continued, stating that “We’re just trying to make this process an easy and convenient option for everybody in the community, from the patients to our colleagues in the healthcare community. We want to be able to pull our weight as well and help take some of that burden off of everybody else.”

The mural in downtown Casper states that we are “Better Together,” and, for some, that was a call to action. The best way to combat COVID-19, according to health professionals, is to wear a mask, socially distance, wash our hands and, if need be, get tested. Thanks to Wyoming Health Fairs, there are now even more ways to do that and to do it quickly. But all of these precautions, all of this testing, is only going to work if we do it together. We are better together, at least according to Tammy Radden.

“Most of us that work at WHF were raised in this community,” Radden said. “To be able to give back to this community and feel like we are making a difference in everything that we do, from blood draws to COVID testing, is heartwarming to all of us. And we just hope we can make a difference and leave an impact on our community.”

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 307-472-3711 or visit their website.

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