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Why some Charlottesville testing clinics are sticking with ‘walk-ins only’

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 10:32 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - It’s become a nightly scene in Charlottesville: long lines for COVID-19 testing spilling out into the streets.

Now, some are changing the rules while others are operating under the same policies.

Once you moved past the long line of cars and head inside the parking lot of Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church, where UVA Health hosted a clinic Tuesday, January 11, you saw volunteers huddled underneath heating lamps between tests. They were trying to stay warm while keeping the community safe.

“The temperatures are cold, and I cannot keep my volunteers out there for four and five hours,” UVA Health Director of Patient Access Services Anna Blackburn said. “So I have to take that into consideration.”

Blackburn says that’s just one of the reasons why it’s tough getting volunteers to come out.

The number of volunteers determines how many tests they can give.

“When it’s warmer and we have a high spike in positivity rate we can accommodate more, but right now in the cold we’re maxing at 200 [tests] when we’re staffed fully,” Blackburn said.

One-hundred-forty tests were given Tuesday night before volunteers had to start turning cars away.

Monday’s testing site at the Church of the Incarnation showed community testing demand stretched beyond capacity. But Blackburn says it’s important for UVA Health to maintain walk-in status for all of its clinics.

“The goal of our testing from the beginning was to provide a safe place for our community members that are underserved,” Blackburn said. “They may not have a place to go, they may not have a primary care physician, or other resources.”

However, at Blue Ridge Health District clinics, both at health departments and at the former JC Penny site, tests will be given only to those with appointments.

“That can cause some frustration if people come and we have run out,” BRHD COVID-19 Testing Supervisor and Coordinator Sabrina Torgesen said. “We’re just going to go ahead and just stick to appointments-only at this time just so we can accommodate people and hopefully minimize the frustration around testing right now.”

For a list of testing sites and information on which ones require registration in advance, click here.

Blackburn advises getting to a walk-up-only event early to maximize your chances of getting tested.

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