Local COVID-19 Testing

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Virginia Department of Health employees Michele Landry and Sabrina Torgesen conducting COVID-19 tests at the White Hall Community Center on July 1. Photo: Malcolm Andrews.

We’ve succeeded in keeping hospitals from being overwhelmed, said Ryan McKay, senior policy analyst for the Thomas Jefferson Health District. There’s ample room in the designated intensive care units, and a good supply of ventilators available for critical patients. 

That’s the good news. McKay keeps his eye on the seven-day rolling average of new cases and he’s a little concerned about the uptick. “We’re seeing double digits in new cases lately,” he said. This comes after a substantial period of the rolling average remaining in the single digits. 

Albemarle County accounts for the largest percentage of hospitalizations and fatalities in the health district, which also includes Charlottesville and Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson Counties. The eight deaths in Albemarle County have all been in people older than 70, and that age group also accounts for 80 percent of those hospitalized from the county. But the growth in positive cases has been in younger people, just as it has been in other parts of the country. More testing, especially of people who are not symptomatic, has shown that the area’s percentage of positive cases to tests has remained pretty steady at between 5 and 6 percent since late May, McKay said. 

But what’s the picture locally, in the area served by the Crozet Gazette? The results are reported by zip code, a classification established for efficiency by the U.S. Postal Service that does not always conform to the general geographical place we call “Western Albemarle” or the “Crozet area.” The zip codes for Ivy (22945) and White Hall (22987) are not listed in the daily tally of cases per zip code, and zip codes that have at least one but fewer than four positives suppress the exact number to protect the confidentiality of patients. So far, fatalities are not reported by zip code. Still, the case numbers tell us something about the active virus cases among us, since we all know our zip codes. These are accurate as of Friday, June 26, and conform generally to the 5 percent or so positivity rate throughout the Health District. The case numbers don’t include the results of the test at White Hall July 1.

Local Tests and Results

Area: Greenwood, Afton, Batesville
Zip Code: 22920
Tests: 181
Positives: 6

Area: Crozet, Yancey Mills
Zip Code: 22932
Tests: 477
Positives: 23

Area: Free Union (includes a large area bordering Crozet to the east)
Zip Code: 22940
Tests: 65
Positives: Between 1 and 4

Area: North Garden
Zip Code: 22959
Tests: 125
Positive: 6

Area: East of Crozet to Charlottesville
Zip Code: 22901
Tests: 2833
Positives: 189

Once the state began releasing information on where outbreaks occurred in retirement communities and nursing homes, it was clear that no Crozet-area residences have experienced outbreaks as yet.

The more tests, the clearer a picture we have, said Cathryn Goodman, speaking for the health district. By publication date, there will have been several group testing events in the county, and testing frequency, the numbers of people county staff can test on a day, and the age groups tested are changing. Tests are free, are given to asymptomatic as well as symptomatic people and, starting with the test at White Hall on July 1, include children older than six. There are five tests scheduled for Albemarle County in July.

What can you expect when you go for a virus test?

First, you’ll need to call to schedule an appointment, at 434-972-6261, Goodman said. Usually the time period for registration is a couple of days before, and the test is for the virus only, not antibodies. There’s a screening process to make sure there will be time to test everyone who arrives at the testing site. “We’ve gotten it down, so it’s much more efficient,” Goodman said, “and we’re now able to test 74 people during each day of testing, up from 24 at the start and later, 48.” She advises people to call early in the registration period, as the slots fill up fast. 

Once scheduled, you’ll be given an exact time to arrive, and there will be one stop for the paper work, another for the test, all in a period of minutes. It’s a drive-through process and works quite well, Goodman said. Goodman gave the Gazette a schedule of future tests, four of them at sites yet to be announced. To find the locations, go to vdh.virginia.com, and select “COVID-19 TJHD Information and Resources” from the drop-down menu on the left. The Gazette will also post locations on its website, www.crozetgazette.com, as they become available.

The next Albemarle County testing date is July 8 at Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, 2050 Lambs Rd., Charlottesville, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Future county tests this month at locations yet to be announced are July 9, 16, 27 and 30.

What happens next?

You can expect a call within a week to let you know if you are positive. If you are, the epidemiology team will talk with you about your recent contacts. “We’ve been doing this from the start, as we do with all contagious diseases,” Goodman said. Usually, people know who they might have exposed, but with businesses opening up for inside gatherings, the job gets tougher. Acknowledging that people are reluctant to answer their phones because of the frequency of spam calls, Goodman said to check the number calling: “Look for our number, 434-972-6261, or something close to that,” she said. That number is also the one to call if you think you’ve been exposed, have questions about safe procedures, or are a business needing safety guidelines. 

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