WESTOVER, W.Va. – The Monongalia County Health Department (MCHD), with the help of the West Virginia National Guard, started providing free COVID-19 tests for vulnerable populations on Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The tests will take place over the course of Friday and Saturday as part of Gov. Justice’s mandate to test vulnerable populations in certain West Virginia counties. The goal is to administer approximately 2,000 tests. Anyone can stop by to receive a test, but the tests are specifically aimed at vulnerable and minority populations, like African Americans, and people who are special needs and do not have a primary healthcare plan, according to the MCHD.
On Friday morning, the MCHD provided testing in the Big Lots parking lot in Westover. By 8:30 a.m., organizers said, there was a line of dozens of cars stretching out of the parking lot and reaching the interstate. By midday, they had administered almost 150 tests, according to organizers.
According to Dr. Lee Smith, the executive director of the MCHD, the tests are a means of getting a snapshot of vulnerable communities in Monongalia County. They want to see how prevalent COVID-19 is in certain communities versus others and try to understand why there are disparities.
“I’m very happy to have this additional information because it is something that we haven’t had here—we’ve only been doing the people that are symptomatic—so this gives a much bigger net to cast and more information that will give us a clearer picture of this virus and maybe help us with the mitigation. Who are the people that need to be isolated, quarantined and those types of things?”Dr. Lee Smith – Executive Director, MCHD
Testers wore protective suits, face shields, masks and gloves in an effort to protect themselves. Smith said the test will take a few days to get back to people who stopped by because there are so many tests being performed. The state government is footing the bill, and Lab Corp, a testing laboratory company, will be providing the tests and providing results, Smith said.
On Saturday, May 23, day two, testing will start at 9 a.m. and go until 4 p.m. at Mountainview Elementary School and the WVU Coliseum parking lot. There will be further assistance from the National Guard.
Smith said the MCHD is “very pleased” to be working with the National Guard because it is a helpful partner.
“This is going to be one of the many times that we’ve worked with them. We’re getting better each time, and we certainly appreciate them coming and sending resources,” Smith said. “We also have some National Guard that have been affiliated with our particular local health department since the beginning, and they’ve been helping us with contact tracing and notifications and that sort of thing. It’s been a great partnership and a great force multiplier.”