What are you doing on Wednesday? Consider getting a COVID-19 test.
Monongalia County Health Department has stepped up its free community COVID-19 testing. In the past two weeks, we’ve conducted 1,520 tests on three different days.
And now, for the foreseeable future, MCHD, in conjunction with the West Virginia National Guard and WVU, will be at the WVU Rec Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Wednesday.
It’s fast, safe and socially-distanced. And, as I mentioned, free.
Now that we are more than six months into the pandemic, the ability to test has greatly ramped up. And the consideration of when to test has evolved.
On Sept. 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clarified its position on testing: “Due to the significance of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, this guidance further reinforces the need to test asymptomatic persons, including close contacts of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection.”
And now it’s time to convince members of the community that even if they feel OK, they should come out and get tested. It’s estimated that up to 40% of individuals with COVID do not have symptoms. Finding those people and isolating them would help us decrease the number of cases that we are seeing in Monongalia County.
But we understand that it’s not just the people who need convincing that getting tested for COVID-19 isn’t necessarily a red flag for illness. Some businesses require anyone who has had a COVID-19 test to quarantine until they get the results. That will keep certain individuals from getting a test.
It’s also a question asked at medical appointments. That makes sense, but maybe the question should be expanded so people feel comfortable saying that yes, they got tested for COVID-19 even though they have no symptoms and no known exposure to the virus.
To be clear, anyone who does have symptoms and/or who has a known close exposure to COVID-19 do still need to quarantine.
And everyone else should wear a mask and practice social distancing when they go anywhere.
But as noted by Dr. Lee B. Smith, MCHD executive director and county health officer, the policy of insurance only reimbursing for testing symptomatic individuals has kept a lot of people from submitting to the COVID swab.
“We’re trying to change that narrative to where everyone understands that they can be tested,” he said. “This will help drive the COVID-19 numbers down by identifying as many infected people as possible so they can quarantine and avoid passing the virus on to others.”
After all, nearly five months ago, when Los Angeles County officials announced that anyone could get tested for free, whether or not they had symptoms, it seemed revolutionary,
As we approach flu season, now it seems like the obvious approach to fighting the pandemic.
And if there are other issues holding anyone back, we’re trying to solve those as well.
First of all, the test is not painful. The swab will only go up mid-nasal, not to the back of your throat. It might tickle a little bit, but it’s over very fast.
We also understand that it can be difficult to leave work to come get a test, so the plan is to add some later hours soon.
Some individuals posting on our social media have asked about drive-through testing. As encouragement to those who have expressed reluctance about getting tested indoors: The space at the WVU Rec Center is very large and open, with lots of room to social distance. Sometimes there are no lines, but even when they do form, it’s not crowded.
Comments from individuals on our social media who have gotten tested have stated that it’s efficient, fast and painless.
And for now, this is where the testing will be held. Logistically, it’s difficult to set up a different operation at a new location every time. That’s one of the issues we have to consider as the pandemic takes a toll on MCHD staff and the volunteers who give their time to help out.
Because while we’re still very busy fighting the pandemic, we’re also still keeping the health department up and running as we perform other duties.
That includes flu vaccines. MCHD is now offering flu vaccines by appointment. Each year, we noted that everyone ages 6 months and older, including senior citizens, those with underlying conditions and pregnant women, should get the vaccine. We also have the high-dose vaccine for anyone 65 and older.
Anyone who wants to get one at MCHD Clinical Services can call 304-598-5119 for an appointment.
Getting vaccinated is more important than ever as we head into flu season during a pandemic. We’re even looking to see if logistically, MCHD could offer flu vaccines during our Wednesday testing days.
And while MCHD is happy that 1,520 tests have been done in the past two weeks, Dr. Smith has another number as a goal: 105,612. That, of course, is the entire population of Monongalia County.