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Central Virginia Health District offers first free mass testing event for the Lynchburg region

Central Virginia Health District offers first free mass testing event for the Lynchburg region

Only $5 for 5 months

No insurance card? No problem.

The Virginia Department of Health on Friday offered free COVID-19 tests to hundreds of uninsured and under-insured Lynchburg-area residents for the first time since the pandemic began.

The community testing event, held at the Community Access Network’s clinic on 5th Street, represents a key step in the health department’s goal of making mass testing available across the state.

“We don’t turn anyone away,” said Christina Delzingaro, the CEO of CAN. “We want everyone to be able to get a test.”

In all, 400 tests were offered to the community at no charge and more than 260 people were tested. No appointments were required and tests were provided on a first-come, first-served basis to symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals over the age of four.

When combined with private tests provided elsewhere in the region, the free event is likely to make Friday the single-day record for testing encounters in the Central Virginia Health District, which includes Lynchburg and the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford and Campbell. The previous record came on May 29 with 473 testing encounters.

As of Friday morning, a little more than 9,000 people, or about 3.5% of the district’s population, have undergone testing for COVID-19, according to VDH data.

As the first free testing event in the city, interest was high. Dozens of cars lined up along Jackson Street ahead of the 11 a.m. start time for drive-thru testing. Within the first hour of opening, more than 50 tests had been conducted, Delzingaro said.

Individuals were asked to provide demographic and contact information before undergoing a nasal swab. The entire process took about five minutes.

“It is uncomfortable for just a moment. But it’s well worth it,” Delzingaro said. “Anyone who has been symptomatic with COVID-19 can tell you it is very debilitating. Some folks have had very few symptoms and no symptoms, but some folks get really sick and it is very debilitating.”

The test kits were shipped to the state health department lab in Richmond for analysis after the event ended at 3 p.m. Results are expected to be provided within 72 hours.

If a test returns a positive result, individuals will be instructed to self-isolate. A contact-tracing investigation also is likely to begin, Delzingaro said.

In addition to drive-thru testing, CAN offered walk-up testing to those without personal transportation. Free masks also were provided.

“We realize that even when no direct expense is involved, some in our communities encounter other barriers to getting COVID-19 testing — a major one being transportation, another perhaps being the amount of time involved in getting to and from the collection centers,” Dr. Kerry Gateley, the director of the Central Virginia Health District, said in an email.

At least 260 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Central Virginia Health District, according to the most recent figures. Seventeen people have been hospitalized and four have died from the disease.

Last week, the district saw the largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases since the virus first spread to the region in mid-March, with 20 cases recorded June 5, according to VDH data.

A complete collection of testing sites can be found at www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.

Richard Chumney covers Liberty University for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.

Richard Chumney covers Liberty University for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5547.

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