COVID-19 testing

Mercer County Health Department held a drive-through COVID-19 test at the department’s parking lot on Saturday, July 11.

GREEN VALLEY — The Mercer County Health Department tested 262 people during their free drive-through testing session on Saturday, as Mercer County saw no increase in cases for a welcome relief.

The free drive-through testing began with a strong wave of residents seeking to be tested for the coronavirus. Testing began at 9:30 a.m., and officials reported packed roads with cars lined out past the Health Department’s lot waiting to be tested.

Traffic cones and law enforcement guided residents around the Health Department’s lot to a group of staff in masks seeking information before testing, then toward a tent with staff fully equipped in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

“It’s been great,” Mercer County Health Department Director Susan Kadar said around noon, with about 125 people tested. “We’ve had a flow... We really had them coming in until about 11 o’clock, and now it’s just sporadically. But I’m thinking we might have another good flow this afternoon.”

Kadar’s prediction proved right. By 4 p.m., the amount of people tested more than doubled for a total of 262 residents tested for the virus. Kadar expected more positives to come from the testing, but emphasized the importance of running free testing sessions like Saturday’s. “You always pull out some positives when you do testing like this,” she said. 

When asked about the implications of more positives being confirmed in Mercer County, Kadar said, “None of it’s good, but we have to do it. We have to find out, see where the trends are, see what’s going on. And, it helps to know if it’s community spread or travel related.”

Residents like Troy King and his young son braved the heat to be tested, citing worries about the rising virus numbers in the state. “I have underlying health conditions and I have a son,” King said, “so it’s best to get tested. The rates are going up right now in West Virginia.” King stated he had not been traveling lately, and wanted to be tested “out of caution.”

Justin Hill seemed slightly less worried about the state’s numbers, but still concerned about safety during the pandemic. “I just came here to be safe. It’s important that people stay safe at this time, and come get checked no matter if they’re sick or have symptoms or not. I think it’s just important to be safe.”

Ted Hill emphasized the importance of being tested for the virus, even if someone did not yet have symptoms. “I think everyone ought to know, that way you have some kind of idea about what’s going on. Whether you think you’ve been around it or not, I think it’s a good idea. That way, you can be sure.”  

Perhaps the first person residents would have seen during the free testing was the Mercer County Emergency Services Director Tim Farley, who was greeting those wanting to be tested as they approached the lot. “I think it’s great to come out to get tested... This is the only way you can absolutely tell for sure if you have COVID-19.” 

“Folks have anxiety about COVID-19 testing and everybody’s worried about if they’re going to get it, if they’re not going to get it. If you’re worried,” Farley said, “ then come and get tested. That way you have some peace of mind.”

Kadar expected the test results to begin returning on Tuesday.

Although Mercer County saw no increase in cases on Saturday, McDowell County’s confirmed virus numbers had risen by one on the West Virginia Department of Health’s website, for a total of 9. Statewide, West Virginia reported 4,035 confirmed coronavirus cases with another 111 probable cases also reported.

In Virginia, Tazewell County also reported an increase, totaling 26 cases throughout the pandemic. The Commonwealth was reporting a total of 66,963 cases with an additional 2,819 probable cases.

“You can have no symptoms and be shedding (communicable),” Kadar said on Saturday. “And that’s why it’s so vital that people wear masks to protect themselves and social distance. Just stay out of these hotspots, because it’s really scary.”

— Contact James Trent at jtrent@bdtonline.com

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