by KATE SHUNNEY
At least three dozen people had already passed through screening and testing areas by 10 a.m. today, Friday, May 29, as two days of free testing for COVID-19 opened to the general public at Warm Springs Middle School in Berkeley Springs. The testing takes place until 4 p.m. today and continues on Saturday, May 30 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The school is located at 271 Warm Springs Way. Large highway signs along
Martinsburg Road alert the public coming from both directions to the testing site.
Individuals will drive to the parking lot of Warm Springs Intermediate School at the end of Warm Springs Way and circle back toward the Middle School to wait in line in their vehicles. They will be directed where to go.
Testing is done in front of the school where medical staff in protective gear administers the nasal swab test through the vehicle window.
Those being tested are asked to provide a photo ID to confirm where they can be reached with test results. Volunteers ask for that
information as vehicles wait for their turn at the testing tents, and provide a sheet of paper showing how a person can access their lab results on the LabCorp website.
At the testing tent, medical staff in protective suits and face shields direct those being tested in their vehicles. Each person is told to tilt their head back and a swab is inserted in each nostril for 10-15 seconds each. Individuals drive away as soon as their test is complete. Results should be available by Tuesday or Wednesday, said Health Department staff.
Dr. Kevin McLaughlin, deputy health officer for the Morgan-Berkeley County Health Department, said anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be contacted as soon as their result is known.
“If they’re positive, they will get a phone call because we have to start the contact tracing immediately,” he said. Contact tracing involves asking an infected person who they have come into close contact with over the previous 7-10 days.
The local two-day testing has been arranged by the Morgan-Berkeley Health Department with assistance from the West
Virginia DHHR and West Virginia National Guard. Guard members and volunteers are assisting with the two-day event.
Residents of the surrounding area, including Hancock, Southern Fulton and neighboring counties and states can take advantage of the testing. Testing officials said they have 700 test kits from the West Virginia DHHR and an additional 1,000 kits are available from the National Guard to meet public demand.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus.
McLaughlin pointed out that 60 to 80% of those infected with the virus will have somewhere from no noticeable symptoms to very mild respiratory disease. The disease can be severe, and statistically has caused extreme illness in older people and those with other diseases. Higher incidents of severe disease and death from COVID-19 have also been seen in African-Americans and Hispanic populations.
Dr. McLaughlin said public health officials pushed for a Morgan County testing site “because of the way our population moves” – as many local residents shop and work in areas nearby with high case numbers. Berkeley County to the east is continuing to conduct free testing there as cases rose last week.
The COVID-19 test is a “point in time” test, meaning it will only tell a person if they are infected with the virus on the day of the test.
“You could go from here to Food Lion and pick it up,” McLaughlin noted.
He expects to see Morgan County’s case numbers rise after the testing.
“We know it’s here,” he said.
The county has 18 lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths as a result of the disease.
Wearing masks is one method to slow the spread of the virus from person to person. McLaughlin said masks protect others from us if we are unknowingly infected with the virus.
During Friday morning’s testing event, the West Virginia National Guard delivered 2,000 surgical masks to Health Department staff.
Jennifer Schetrompf, Threat Preparedness and Health Promotion Coordinator, said another 25,000 masks are being donated by the Hanes company to be distributed to members of the public who need them. More details about the availability of those masks will be shared by the Health Department as they become available.
Morgan County’s Health Department can be reached at 304-258-1513 and their social media pages contain further information about COVID-19 response.