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Anonymous donation helps health department open testing to anyone

Anyone in the Thomas Jefferson Health District should now be able to get tested for COVID-19, regardless of whether they are symptomatic of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The health district, which covers Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties and Charlottesville, is running multiple upcoming testing clinics and plans to add more in the near future.

During an Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Meeting, TJHD Director Denise Bonds said the health department has received an anonymous donation, which allows it to hire a dedicated testing team of five people for the district who will likely start work next week.

“Their sole job will be to go around and do testing for COVID-19 in our community,” she said. “We anticipate that we’ll be able to do at least three community testing events every week, and we’re hoping that we can move toward testing every day of the week, Monday through Friday.”

People who want to get tested should call the TJHD hotline at (434) 972-6261 between 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Health district staff will go over testing options with the caller.

Current drive-thru clinics in Ruckersville on Friday and one in Lovingston on May 29 are by appointment only and can each test 48 people.

To schedule an appointment for the free Ruckersville clinic, residents should call the hotline Thursday before 4:30 p.m. To schedule an appointment for the free Lovingston clinic, residents should call the hotline between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on May 27 or May 28.

There is also a free drive-thru or walk up clinic focusing on communities of color from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church and the Jefferson School City Center for those who are symptomatic ( with fever, cough, shortness of breath, tired, body aches, sore throat, loss of smell and taste, etc.) or those who are first responders, healthcare workers, living or working in a group setting, an essential worker or are living with or have close contact with someone with COVID-19. There are a limited number of tests available and no appointments are required.

TJHD has previously done testing in Albemarle at Southwood Mobile Home Park and Yancey School Community Center. Bonds said they tested around 18 people at Yancey.

Bonds said the health district has been able to do complete test case investigations and complete contact tracing for all of the confirmed cases in the district.

“We are hiring additional people,” she said. “We have three on board that have already started and are trained and working with our staff right now. We have six that are in the process of getting their background checks and will be oriented and get all of their equipment next Tuesday, and should be here to start with us on Wednesday.”

Over the summer, Bonds said, the health district will likely hire an additional five to 10 people to do case investigations, depending on what happens when and if students come back to the University of Virginia.

To date, there have been 390 confirmed cases in the health district and 13 people have died.

Bond said the district’s numbers have been relatively low because the government has been responsive to recommendations and the community followed social distancing guidelines.

“They stayed home, they wore their masks, when they needed to go out, they were respectful of distances,” she said. “I think that is exactly why our numbers are in single digits right now, people really paid attention and did what was suggested of them.”

There are currently six outbreaks in the district, according to officials — four at long term care facilities, one at a correctional facility and one in a congregate setting. An outbreak is defined by three associated cases in some sort of community.

So far, 129 cases have been associated with outbreaks, and 39 cases have been in healthcare workers.

Bonds said more than 6,000 tests have been done in the district. She said currently, tests are coming back about 4% positive; the highest positivity rate in the district was on April 14, with 15.4%.

She said the district also is doing point prevalence surveys, where staff or the National Guard test specific groups, such as everybody in a long term care facility.

“We’re not seeing large rates of individuals who are infected but asymptomatic, so I think that’s really good,” she said.


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