A Message From Dr. Richard Friend, Dean of the College of Community Health Sciences

July 27, 2020

Until there is a vaccine, Covid-19 testing remains critical to gaining control of the spread of the virus and allowing for a return to normalcy.

Testing helps find the virus in the population, hopefully early, and lets people know they need to quarantine or isolate themselves from others. This is one way we can help limit the spread of the virus. Universal face coverings, social distancing and other measures are also critically important.

At University Medical Center, we provide Covid-19 testing for our patients throughout West Alabama from our UMC locations in Tuscaloosa, Northport and Demopolis. We are also testing University of Alabama employees in UA’s preparation for a safe return to campus. And, with the help of UA’s Mobile Outreach Unit and the University’s Division for Research and Economic Development, we are traveling to the state’s Black Belt region, where there is limited access to health care, to provide Covid-19 screening and testing in those communities.

We have worked hard to ensure that Covid-19 testing is available to our patients at UMC and to other Alabama communities, and we continue to do so. Through our long-established relationships with suppliers, we now have access to approximately 24,000 Covid-19 tests per month, one of only two facilities in Alabama with such rights.

These tests are rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests. A nasopharyngeal swab is used to collect a mucus sample from the nose and back of throat that is analyzed right where the sample is collected. Results are available in approximately 15 minutes. The test shows if there is an active Covid-19 infection so the patient knows to quarantine or isolate. The test’s positive results are highly accurate. The ideal time for testing is two to five days after exposure.

Initially in the pandemic, we were dependent on Covid-19 tests that required a four or five day wait for results, and those delays have increased as frequent testing has become the norm. The rapid test now being used enables us to identify cases earlier and conduct contact tracing, which UMC is also doing with the help of UA’s College of Community Health Sciences and the College’s Institute for Rural Health Research.

Contact tracing involves identifying people who have Covid-19 and the people who they have been in close contact with for longer than 15 minute and asking those people to isolate or quarantine voluntarily.

Testing and contact tracing are key to slowing the spread of Covid-19. University Medical Center is committed to this very important work and to keeping our patients and communities safe.

The College of Community Health Sciences operates University Medical Center