Staff quarantines planned for orthopedic group tied to 15 COVID-19 cases; owner describes testing problems


McKinley Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Fairbanks, Alaska, temporarily closed after it was linked to 15 COVID-19 cases.

The practice's owner spoke to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner about testing challenges and discussed strategy moving forward.

Several COVID-19 cases that were linked to MOSM involved patients who contracted the disease before March 15, when the ASC began actively screening all building visitors for travel history and symptoms of the new coronavirus.

Patients were sent for testing if any screening measures revealed potential COVID-19 exposure, but some resisted going, according to MOSM owner Tim Carey.

Moreover, a First Care facility wouldn't test some patients because state policy at the time limited tests to only symptomatic individuals considered "high risk." Two patients were turned away before Mr. Carey contacted First Care and insisted that the individuals did need testing.

Because of these and other testing difficulties, Mr. Carey said he believes the state's number of confirmed cases is lower than the actual number of cases.

"We had six different people with six different sources come into our clinic. If that percentage of the patients in the public have it, then it's also at Fred Meyer, Safeway, Walmart. The only difference is that those places aren't screening at the door," he told the News-Miner. "It's not like you're only going to get it by coming to our office. It's there in the public, and you need to be careful to take care of yourself."

MOSM is scheduled to reopen April 3. Because some staff members tested positive for COVID-19, the practice is scheduling regular quarantine periods.

"We have enough staff to rotate everybody. So everybody is going to work one week, and then take two weeks off," Mr. Carey said. "So if there's any chance they have symptoms, everybody is going to be self-quarantined away from the business already. It kind of keeps everybody safe."

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