PEARISBURG, Va. — As reported as of Friday evening, a mobile drive-through coronavirus testing site conducted at Giles High School in Pearisburg on Wednesday had resulted in the discovery of nine new cases of COVID-19.
Four were from Giles County and five of the positives were from tested individuals who reside outside of the New River Valley.
This brought the total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Giles County to eight. So far, no hospitalizations due to the virus in Giles County have been reported.
Initial reports indicated that only one new case in Giles County had been discovered, but Wednesday’s samples were split between two labs and the initial announcement on Friday afternoon was incomplete.
Wednesday’s testing, which was conducted by the Virginia Department of Health’s New River Valley District, was one of a series of testing sites that will be conducted throughout the region as part of a response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, said Dr. Noelle Bissell, director of the New River Health District.
Most of Giles County’s population, including a string of close-knit incorporated communities along the Route 460 corridor, is situated west of the Ripplemeade Bridge, which crosses the New River between Pembroke and Pearisburg. Most of the county along Route 460 headed east from Pembroke to the outskirts of Blacksburg is basically rural and more sparsely populated.
Wednesday’s testing foray was not held in response to any upsurge in local cases. Nor, said Bissell, was there any particular strategic importance to choosing Giles High School in Pearisburg as the testing site.
“The task force is regional, and we are trying to test in all of our localities,” Bissell explained. “We have already done the fairgrounds in Dublin, New River Valley Mall in Christiansburg and Floyd High School. We plan to be at Radford Rec Center next week — again, to make testing available in all of our localities.”
Bissell noted that roughly 120 individuals were tested at the Giles High School site on Wednesday.
Medical site on-site staff for these mobile testing units typically include full-time Virginia Department of Health employees, contract employees, student interns, medical residents, Medical Reserve Corps volunteers and Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition volunteers, Bissell said.
Logistical support at the Giles site was provided by county and local law enforcement, fire and emergency services personnel. Town and county officials and public school officials also provided assistance in arranging for the testing date.
All of the persons tested had obtained prior appointments by calling the VDH New River Health District COVID -19 public health call center for screening interviews. Testing was not limited to applicants who were obviously sick.
“We opened testing very broadly using prior screening criteria for our highest risk populations and extending to the community,” Bissell said.
“We are trying to get a good idea of prevalence in our area and we know there are asymptomatic to minimally symptomatic individuals with COVID-19,” she said.
Overall Wednesday’s session went about as smoothly as was expected.
“It seems to be a pretty good model, based on experience thus far,” Bissell said.
The upcoming mobile drive testing site in will be open on Wednesday, May 13 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Radford Recreation Center at 200 George Street in Radford, Va. On Friday, May 15 a mobile testing site will be open from 1 p.m. to 3 p,m, at Blacksburg High School at 3401 Bruin Lane in Blacksburg, Va. Giles County residents will be able to obtain testing at those sites, if needed.
Area residents with questions about COVID-19 or who wish to request an appointment for testing at either site should contact the New River District’s COVID-19 public health call center (540-267-8240).
— Contact George Thwaites at email@example.com