Future of Charlottesville-area COVID community testing events is uncertain

Future of Charlottesville-area COVID community testing events is uncertain

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Community testing events have been a valuable resource to increase Coronavirus testing across central Virginia, and the fight against the virus spread relies on increased testing.

But there are changes coming to area testing events.

For the past few weeks, Thursday nights at Washington Park in Charlottesville meant you could get tested for COVID-19 for free thanks to Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital. But on Thursday, July 23, the event was held for the last time.

”They’ve been a great asset and we’ve enjoyed working with them,” said Jessica Coughlin, the health emergency coordinator with the Thomas Jefferson Health District. “So, we always want more testing in the community.“

She says these events are important because they are free and “very easily accessible.”

“A lot of people who don’t have health insurance, who are living paycheck-to-paycheck don’t have a primary care provider,” she said. “I think [the community testing events] truly does help every community because we have very rural communities and we have very urban communities in our district.”

Now, there’s one less resource for community testing. A statement released by Sentara Martha Jefferson said that the reason the events are ending is that “the number of hospitalized and emergency room patients requiring testing is increasing, and our laboratories daily capacity, due to restrictions on the supply of tests, are not able to meet the community testing needs at this time.”

UVA Health also has some uncertainty with its community testing program.

Dr. Denise Bonds, the health director with TJHD, said on Wednesday at an Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meeting that UVA Health had a state contract to help provide funding for community testing fall through.

But on Thursday, she updated her statement.

“There was some concern because the state will not pay for the tests that UVA does,” she said. “But I think we’ve come up with a not-ideal but functional workaround.”

NBC29 reached out to UVA Health for more information about the “workaround,” but it did not provide any details at the time of publication.

“UVA Health is committed to providing community testing for the Charlottesville area,” it said in a statement.

TJHD said it is working on expanding its testing capacity.

“I know that we’re working with a lot of different organizations, so there are lots of opportunities to have testing,” Coughlin said.

She says TJHD expects the number of tests given at these community events will increase to about 1,000 tests per month, starting in August.

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