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TAZEWELL, Va. — A concern has been raised in Tazewell County that a possible stigma attached to being positive may be stopping some from learning if they have the virus.

The county, in partnership with the Cumberland Plateau Health District, is sponsoring a free testing event on Wednesday from noon to 3 p.m. at the Tazewell County Fairgrounds, and wants to make residents take advantage without concern about a possible stigma.

AJ Robinson, director of the county’s Community Development & Tourism Department, said everyone who wants to be tested can be.

“With the recent increase of COVID-19 cases, we want residents to remain vigilant by not only washing their hands, not touching their face, practicing social distancing and wearing a mask if able but to also take advantage of public testing if they are experiencing coronavirus symptoms or believe they have recently been exposed,” she said. “Removing public stigma is an important aspect of keeping our community safe. Tazewell County residents have done an excellent job at keeping case numbers low and we want to see that trend stay on track.”

Robinson said it is drive-through with two lines and they can remain in their cars for the entire process, including the testing.

Participants can call the Tazewell County Health Department to get an appointment so they won’t have to wait as long, she added.

Dr. Sue Cantrell, director of the Cumberland Plateau and LENOWISCO Health Districts, which includes Tazewell County, said she does not understand why anyone would experience a stigma because it is a crucial part of stopping the spread of the virus.

“Testing is important epidemiologically to help us determine the extent of disease in our community,” she said. “We have already conducted nearly 3,000 tests in the Cumberland Plateau Health District. However, people in our community have begun to travel more both within and outside our area and cases are increasing in our community and communities near us and in areas that residents commonly visit, so we are encouraging people to be tested.”

Testing contributes to everyone’s safety, she added.

“There are many reasons people are reluctant to be tested, but the more of us that get tested, the safer we all are,” she said. “As many as four in 10 people can be infected with COVID-19 and never show symptoms, but are contagious. In other cases, people spread the disease before they have symptoms. Anyone can be infected and infecting others, without ever knowing it. This is all the more reason to get tested so you know your status.”

Cantrell also clarified some misinformation that may be spreading about COVID-19 and testing. Here are those false rumors and and the truth:

• What about my privacy? If I get tested, it’ll be spread all over social media.”

Test results are private records. VDH (Virginia Department of Health) does not share them publicly.

• “We don’t have many cases. It’s a hoax, nothing to worry about.”

Reputable scientific organizations and medical experts around the world have declared this to be a global pandemic. This is a scientifically proven fact. COVID-19 has been widespread with community transmission throughout Virginia for more than two months. Cases and hospitalizations are in every health district in Virginia.

• “I haven’t gone anywhere to catch COVID-19.”

The risk of exposure is everywhere. Personal precautions, including distance, hygiene and face coverings, are the best ways to protect yourself and those around you. There is no safe place. There is only safe behavior.

• “I have to build up my immune system by exposing myself to COVID-19.”

This is a novel virus. It’s new, extremely infectious, no one has immunity and we do not yet fully understand how dangerous it can be. There is no vaccine, and no widely available treatment if you do get ill.

• “If I test positive, I can’t afford to stay home for several days. I will get fired.”

VDH encourages employers to provide safe work environments, and accommodations for employees who are ill or concerned about the risk of exposure.

“Finally, we continue to stress the importance of taking personal precautions, including traveling only when essential, practicing good hygiene, wearing face coverings when close to people not from your household and physical distancing,” Cantrell said. “That’s how you stay well, and how you protect those around you today, your family and friends, and our communities. We are still all in this together!”

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com.

 

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