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Covid test site opens

A health provider conducts a covid-19 test at the county's testing site at East Henderson High School. A health provider conducts a covid-19 test at the county's testing site at East Henderson High School.

A covid test site available was moderately busy Tuesday as it offered the test not only for high-risk people but the general public.

The site, offered by the Henderson County Public Health Department and Blue Ridge Community Health and set up at the East Henderson High School gym, served 55 tested 55 people in the first hour, said Emergency Services Director Jimmy Brissie. The health agencies were able to acquire tests and are expecting greater testing capacity from two sources — LabCorp and the state lab in Raleigh.

"The capacity has been related to the labs themselves processing tests," he said.

One of the most asked questions during the county's weekly livestreamed coronavirus updates has been, "Why can't I get tested."

Brissie, Public Health Department Steve Smith, County Manager Steve Wyatt and Blue Ridge Health leaders began talking about the new public testing site last week.

Testing stations were spread widely apart on the gym floor and Xs on the floor kept people at least 6 feet apart. Nurses took nasal swabs of the people who wanted a test. The health workers will notify them of results.

"They're testing folks that have symptoms and folks that don't have symptoms," Brissie said. "The target for this clearly is folks at higher risk. From what I've seen it has been a pretty good mix — a lot of industry workers and some that probably have a higher risk."

If a person tests, positive public health nurses will advise them on what to do next and begin the process of contact tracing by asking them to identify who they had been with in the past weeks.

The testing site is open again Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will be scheduled a day at a time while supplies last.

Brissie said he's been generally satisfied with the community's adherence with public health guidance to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

"We recognize we will probably see more cases in the community as people get out and about more," he said.

Peppered with questions from the public about getting tested, Smith has had to say for weeks that the limited number of tests have been reserved for high-risk people and front-line workers.

"People have been anxious to get tested," he said. From a public health standpoint, a virtue of more widely available testing is to catch cases early, start contact tracing and prevent an outbreak, he said.

Here is the Health Department's Q&A on the site:
Q: Is this a drive through test site?

A: No. You will need to park and enter the designated building.

Q: Are face-coverings required?

A: Please wear a face covering if you have one. If you do not have one, a face covering will be provided for you.

Q: Do I need an appointment?

A: No, this is first come, first served, while supplies last.

Q: Do I have to be symptomatic? Who can be tested?

A: Testing will be available for people who are not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 who wish to be tested. Priority will be given to people who are experiencing symptoms or who have had close contact with someone who has tested positive. This testing is open to the community with emphasis on availability for the following:

  • Persons who live in or have regular contact with high-risk settings (e.g., long-term care facility, homeless shelter, correctional facility, migrant farmworker camp)

  • Persons who are at high risk of severe illness (e.g., people over 65 years of age, people of any age with underlying health conditions)

  • Health care workers or first responders (EMS, law enforcement, fire department, military)

  • Front-line and essential workers (e.g., grocery store clerks, gas station attendants) in settings where

    social distancing is difficult to maintain.

  • Persons with limited access to healthcare.

Q: What if I am very sick?

A: If you are very sick, please call your healthcare provider. If you need emergent care, call 911.

Q: Is there a fee?

A: Insurance will be filed to help cover the costs of the testing. However, no one will be turned away.

Q: What should I bring?

A: Your insurance card if you have medical insurance.

Q: Who do I call if I have questions?

A: The Health Department has a hotline number, 828-694-6019. Please only call this number if necessary. General questions about COVID-19 should be directed to the hotline set up by North Carolina DHHS at 866- 462-3821.
Specific, individual healthcare questions should be directed to your healthcare provider.