In an effort to use federal and state funding available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act before it expires at the end of this month, Churchill County is moving forward with creating a satellite health laboratory for processing local COVID-19 tests.
Creating the health lab will significantly reduce the need to send COVID test specimens collected in Churchill County to the State Health Lab in Reno, thereby reducing the turnaround time for receiving test results.
“We believe this will be a great advantage in reducing the backlog of our test specimens at the State Health Lab and allow us to get test results back to county residents in a more timely manner,” said Shannon Ernst, Churchill County’s Social Services director. COVID tests specimen collected at the county’s fairgrounds’ testing site average a week for results to be returned.
The new county health lab will be located in the space formerly occupied by the WNC Nursing Lab in the county annex building on West B Street. The county is covering the expense to move the nursing lab and its equipment back to the WNC campus.
“Churchill County has always been a big supporter and advocate for WNC’s nursing program and was instrumental in reestablishing the program locally, thanks in large part to Commissioner Scharmann’s efforts,” said Jim Barbee, county manager. “We continue to support them and believe having a health lab in the county along with nursing students will ultimately benefit the students, the college and the community. The county has provided classroom/lab space at no-cost to WNC for its nursing program, EMT classes and CNA courses for many years and has been a financial contributor to the nursing program.”
“Due to the pandemic and the need for the county to establish a health lab, the space in our annex building located near the community health nurse’s office became a critical need. We worked cooperatively with WNC and they were able to find space to re-locate their program on the WNC campus,” Barbee explained.
Initial supplies and equipment (i.e. countertops, cabinetry, lab hoods, etc.) for the lab have been ordered and will be installed as they arrive. The county received about $1 million in CARES funding from the State of Nevada to cover the cost of setting up its lab and COVID response by the county.
The county will hire a lab director and technician to initially staff the health lab and process the test results.