Thirty people were tested for the coronavirus on May 8 at a drive-through clinic next to the Betty J. Queen Intergenerational Center and the Louisa Health Department.
It was the first such test clinic in the county, and one in a series of weekly test programs the Thomas Jefferson Health District is conducting in rural counties. One was held in Fluvanna County last week, and clinics will be scheduled in upcoming weeks in Albemarle, Greene and Nelson counties.
Jessica Salah, the health district's emergency coordinator, said the timing for the series of clinics has been driven by the availability of test kits.
"We’ve been given more so we’ve been able to slowly increase the amount of testing we’ve been able to do," she said.
Anyone with possible symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, was a candidate for testing. Salah noted that the federal Centers for Disease Control recently expanded the list of possible symptoms.
"We were not very particular about symptoms," she said. "If you had a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath ... some people had said they were having memory loss issues; loss of taste or smell; or body aches."
Nurses who administered the nasal swab test told patients they would be contacted within 24 to 48 hours with results. If the result is positive, a case investigator will make a follow-up call to ask where the individual has been and who they have been in contact with. They will then be expected to self-isolate for 14 days.
Testing has been limited in rural areas like Louisa, another reason the health department is trying to ramp up its activities in those areas now.
"In some of the more rural communities, physicians either aren’t testing or they are closed altogether," Salah said. "[Also], most physicians aren’t taking on new patients. For Louisa, it’s a 45-minute drive sometimes to get to a hospital, so it's a different demographic."
In the near future, the health department expects to have additional staff, enabling it to set up a dedicated team to conduct tests by appointment or even go house-to house in a neighborhood if necessary.
"It really just depends on the situation," she said. "It’s a very fluid situation in which things change from one week to the next."