by KATE SHUNNEY & KATE EVANS
A mass COVID-19 testing site at Warm Springs Middle School last week tested 353 residents for the highly contagious respiratory disease on Friday, May 29 and Saturday, May 30.
Dr. Kevin McLaughlin, Deputy Health Officer for the Morgan-Berkeley County Health Department, said that 200 people were tested at the middle school on Friday and 153 people were tested on Saturday.
Sometimes a few people waited in line for several minutes to be tested and sometimes there were lulls between people wanting tests. People seemed to come in batches, he said.
Large electronic highway signs along Martinsburg Road alerted the public coming from both directions to the testing site.
Testing was done in front of the school where medical staff in protective gear administered the nasal swab test through vehicle windows.
Individuals drove to the parking lot of Warm Springs Intermediate School at the end of Warm Springs Way and circled back toward the Middle School to wait in line in their vehicles. They were directed where to go by civilian volunteers, medical staff and National Guard members.
Those being tested were asked to provide a photo ID to confirm where they can be reached with test results. Volunteers asked for that information as vehicles wait for their turn at the testing tents, and provided 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 directed those being tested in their vehicles. Each person was told to tilt their head back and a swab was inserted in each nostril for 10-15 seconds each. Individuals could drive away as soon as their test was complete. Results were expected to be available by Tuesday or Wednesday, said Health Department staff.
McLaughlin said that things went very well for the testing and that he appreciated the community coming out to be tested to determine the prevalence of the disease in the area.
The Morgan County-Berkeley County Health Department, The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Director Dick Myers from the Morgan County Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, the West Virginia Army and Air National National Guard, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department and Morgan County Schools were among the agencies that participated as partners in the free COVID-19 testing.
Dr. McLaughlin said on Monday that the results from the May 29 and May 30 Morgan County COVID-19 testing would be hitting the county’s test data beginning Monday and Tuesday. Morgan County currently has 18 cases-17 lab-confirmed cases and one probable case.
If any residents’ tests came back positive, McLaughlin said that they would receive a phone call. Contact tracing needs to start right away to reach out to those that they’ve been in close contact with for the past 7-10 days.
If a person’s tests results are negative, they probably wouldn’t hear back from the Health Department, but could sign into LabCorp company’s website to see their test results.
If people have trouble signing in for their test results, they can call the Morgan County Health Department at 304-258-1513 for assistance.
Residents of the surrounding area, including Hancock, Southern Fulton and neighboring counties and states were able to take advantage of the testing. Results for those outside Morgan County will be reported to that person’s local health department and show up in their state’s results.
Testing officials said they were prepared with 700 test kits from the West Virginia DHHR and an additional 1,000 kits are available from the National Guard to meet public demand.
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 on Friday at the testing site.
He expects to see Morgan County’s case numbers rise after the testing.
“We know it’s here,” he said.
The county has had 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 were 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.