Local COVID-19 community testing is tentatively scheduled from May 28 until June 3 according to Director of Emergency Management Sean Burke. The mission is to test 10 percent of the county’s population to show if the coronavirus could be hiding somewhere in Pershing County.

In Friday’s SITREP (Situation Report), Burke said there were zero positive tests in Pershing County, that 60 tests had been conducted with three test results pending. In an earlier report, Burke explained that positive tests for those who work in Pershing County, but live elsewhere, are not counted by the state as Pershing County cases. It is not uncommon for mine, prison, construction and other workers to commute from other communities to jobs in Pershing County.

“I know there have been some rumors flying around about ‘positive’ cases in the county. In the interest of full transparency, I would point out that the method for reporting positive cases assigns those individuals to their home address,” Burke said. “For instance, if I work in Lovelock, but reside in Winnemucca, and tested positive, I would be officially reported as a Humboldt County positive case.”

Burke confirmed that voluntary tests will be conducted on a first come-first serve basis at the Lovelock Community Center and possibly at the Grass Valley Fire Station but details of the plan will not be finalized until later this week, he said. Burke did confirm that the Nevada National Guard has agreed to assist with local testing and sample transport to the state lab in Reno. 

“We’re still wondering about how best to do it in the outlying communities. The set up for this thing is pretty extensive and we want to make sure we capture maximum participation. So, we’re still looking at the outlying communities. Rye Patch, probably not because of their proximity to Lovelock and we’re still thinking about Imlay and Grass Valley,” Burke said.

Priority groups for COVID-19 testing include first responders, law enforcement, healthcare providers, county and city employees with frequent public contact. Burke said mine, bank, grocery store and prison workers are also priorities for testing. The Lovelock Paiute Tribe has coordinated tribal community testing with another tribal entity but “individuals (tribal members) are welcome to participate” in the county’s community testing event, Burke said.

hile participation in the event is voluntary. Burke believes people would like to know if they have been infected so they can isolate themselves from vulnerable friends and family members.

“My intent is to ‘encourage’ first responders, LE (Law Enforcement), etc.,” Burke said. “I don’t believe we can compel anyone to be tested. I suspect we will get all the people that we want to get. I think people are interested enough in the results that they would actively participate.”

Burke said tests results will take two to three days and those who test positive may be quarantined. Burke said the county health officer will determine the quarantine schedules.

“I would defer to the County Health Officer, Dr. VanGuilder, for the specifics of the quarantine,” he said. “Lodging will be made available for any one that cannot remain at their own residence.”

Burke said there could be some helpful input from Winnemucca’s community testing program.

“The National Guard is conducting testing in Winnemucca this weekend and I’m sure we will get some good lessons learned there,” he said. “The bottom line is that COVID is almost certainly somewhere in Pershing County, even if we continue to see ZERO reportable positive cases...so please act accordingly and take all necessary precautions to include social distancing, masks, hand washing, etc.”

Burke passed along some good news from state leadership and the state health department.

“I sent the Governor’s Report out separately and the trends are continuing to show a slowing of the pandemic,” he said. “Now we just need to address the locusts and earthquakes…”

For the latest updates or more information on community testing, contact Burke at emergencymanagement@pershingcounty.net or call him anytime at 703-999-3901.