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Community COVID-19 testing and vaccination centers to close

Community COVID-19 testing and vaccination centers in Albemarle County and Charlottesville will be closing later this month, but local health officials say options for both will still be available at other locations.

The community vaccination center in Seminole Square Shopping Center will close March 12, and the community testing center at Pantops Shopping Center will end operations March 15.

The Virginia Department of Health used federal emergency funds to hire contractors to run both centers. Blue Ridge Health District spokeswoman Kathryn Goodman said the funding is ending, and the demand for vaccines and testing, along with turnout at the centers, has dropped significantly.

“We’re just not seeing the need to keep the site operating for as long as we initially thought we would,” Goodman said. “We always had intentions of the community vaccination center closing at the end of March, and we moved it up to mid-March given that the demand has decreased so much.”

According to the health district, 73.5% of residents in the Blue Ridge Health District — which covers Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson counties and Charlottesville — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 69% are fully vaccinated. Albemarle has the highest vaccination rate at 75.4%, and Louisa has the lowest at 58.1%.

Across the district, 38.1% of residents have gotten a booster.

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Joe Biden said moves are being made to create a test-and-treat environment in the future where antiviral drugs are dispensed at the time of a positive test.

That, however, is in the future.

“We will still continue to have weekly clinics at the health departments,” Goodman said. “[Vaccines] will be available through pharmacies, health care providers, other outlets like grocery stores, and we will still continue to do mobile clinics throughout the district.”

In February, there were about 4,230 new COVID cases in the district, down from about 11,240 new cases in January, according to data provided by the state. January had the highest number of new cases in any month so far in the pandemic. February was the second highest month.

January also saw a peak for hospitalizations in the local health district with about 190. February had far fewer hospitalizations, with about 27.

Health district data on case numbers only includes lab tests, so there are likely more cases than what the data shows, Goodman said.

“I do think we are on a slight downward trend considering how high of a peak we hit in January and February,” she said.

If someone tests positive using an at-home test kit, they should trust that it is positive, stay home and isolate, notify close contacts and notify the health department, Goodman said.

The University of Virginia Health system and the health district are continuing to offer free drive-through community testing sites Monday through Friday.

UVa Health is holding walk-in testing every Monday evening at Church of the Incarnation, in Albemarle County, while on Tuesday evenings it will be at Mount Zion First African Baptist Church, in the city.

NEXT Molecular, which provides clinical testing and other services, is holding walk-in testing Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings at Fashion Square Mall in the former JCPenney parking lot.

The local health district will be holding appointment-only testing clinics on weekday evenings at various health departments and community health centers across the district.

For more information or to sign up for a test or vaccine, visit vdh.virginia.gov/blue-ridge.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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