In response to a cluster of COVID-19 cases in Manchester, Southwestern Vermont Health Care has set up a site to conduct a more common and reliable form of testing for the virus. ​

Vermont Health Commission Dr. Levine said it’s not accurate to call the situation in Manchester an outbreak because the possible cases were identified using antigen tests, which are are more likely to produce false negatives.

​”They’re intended to be screening tools for people who have symptoms and while they are useful for screening patients, antigen tests may have a higher chance of missing an infection and need to be confirmed,” said Dr. Levine. 

The Manchester site at Riley Rink will conduct PCR tests, which are more reliable, less expensive and faster than the antigen tests. Levine said anyone living in a high-risk area or who fears they may have been exposed to the virus will benefit from the test.​

Dr. Trey Dobson, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s chief medical officer, said he’s prepared for high community turnout for testing.​

“The turn-out has been larger than anticipated, but fortunately we are ready for it, and we welcome anyone who needs to be tested to come down and be tested,” said Dr. Dobson.

Dobson said he believes antigen testing will soon become more mainstream.​

“We are very hopeful that antigen testing becomes much more sensitive so that we can use it ubiquitously throughout the country to test for coronavirus,” said

Vermonters are still expected to follow state guidelines and quarantine requirements, especially upon returning from a hot spot, said Agency of Health Services Secretary Mike Smith.

“One case can balloon can balloon into several cases and it can balloon into a cluster and from a cluster to an outbreak, we just want to try and avoid that,” said Smith.

By 9 a.m. Thursday, about 60 cars were lined up at Riley Rink. Levine said the site will be open for as long as necessary and a more accurate count of the Manchester cases will be released soon. ​