Area providers are seeing more demand for COVID-19 tests as positive cases rise locally and families are navigating another pandemic holiday season.
Two of the health district’s testing events have hit capacity in the last week, at-home tests are in short supply at area stores and the Jefferson Madison Regional Library is nearly out of the 4,000 rapid tests it received before Thanksgiving.
The library expects to receive more tests from the Virginia Department of Health early this week and then they’ll resume contactless curbside pickup. Those who want to pick up a free test kit should call their local branch first to check on availability. For more information, go to jmrl.org/covid19.
Director David Plunkett said JMRL will continue to partner with VDH to distribute tests as long as supply and capacity allows. Last week, the JMRL branches distributed 2,041 tests, which was more than double any of the other weeks, he said.
On Monday, only the branches in Greene, Nelson, and Scottsville had tests but Plunkett didn’t expect them last the day.
“The program is great, and JMRL is glad to be able to partner with the VDH to help our community combat COVID,” Plunkett said. “… Demand was right around what was expected until late last week. Anecdotally, many of the tests are for families that are either traveling or expecting company for the holidays.”
The Blue Ridge Health District, University of Virginia and NextMolecular Lab are continuing to provide free COVID-19 testing this week for those ages 6 months or older. For information about the sites, call (434) 972-6261, email BRHealthDistrict@gmail.com or go to vdh.virginia.gov/blue-ridge/covid-19-tjhd-testing-sites.
BRHD and NextMolecular Lab expanded the free testing sites from two to four this week. The lab will be set up in the former JCPenney parking lot at the Fashion Square Mall from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week for those who register ahead or walk-in.
The University of Virginia Medical Center has seen a mild increase in COVID testing from last month, processing 3,707 tests in the last week, spokesman Eric Swensen said. The coordinators of the free testing events at Church of the Incarnation and Mount Zion First African Baptist Church said that they haven’t seen an increase in recent weeks.
The Blue Ridge Health District is encouraging people to be cautious during holiday celebrations. All localities in the district are currently experiencing high levels of community transmission.
“We continue to see a slow rise in new cases of COVID-19 across the Blue Ridge Health District,” officials wrote in an update Friday. “This increase in new cases is mostly from outbreaks in workplace settings, social gatherings, and pre-K and school settings.”
The district has reported 1,527 new cases this month, up from the 1,339 new cases in November, and Cases levels are still below the winter and delta surges earlier this year; however, trends are not looking great heading into a holiday week.
Last year, cases surged following the holidays with 3,242 new cases in January. As of Monday, the district is averaging 85.5 new cases a day over a seven-day period.
University of Virginia doctors said recently that the area is seeing a resurgence in the delta variant, and BRHD expects the omicron variant to surpass delta this winter in terms of cases.
All BRHD testing sites are testing all COVID-19 samples for the omicron variant. The VDH has already confirmed one case on omicron in the northwest region, which includes BRHD.
Health officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated and boosted, if eligible, to protect themselves and others.
“While we celebrate with those we love the most, it is important to remember that COVID-19 cases are on the rise and new infections can still lead to severe complications and even death, especially for those who are not yet vaccinated,” BRHD officials wrote in the update.
A number of vaccine appointments are available this week through Dec. 22 at the Seminole Square vaccination clinic that’s inside the former Big Lots. Both the clinic and BRHD will be operating under altered hours in observance of the holidays. For more information about the hours and services available, call the hotline at (434) 972-6261. Appointments can be made at vase.vdh.virginia.gov.
About 64.8% of those eligible in the health district are fully vaccinated and another 28.1% have received a booster dose.
BRHD also encouraged people to follow local and state guidelines regarding the virus, take precautions while indoors such as wearing a mask, to choose outdoors when possible and to stay home if you are feeling sick.