Major turnout for free COVID-19 testing in virus-stricken Accomack County

Coronavirus

ACCOMACK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — Eastern Shore residents started lining up as early as 7 a.m. for a free COVID-19 testing clinic that began at 10 a.m., with the line backed up all the way out onto U.S. 13 from the site at Eastern Shore Community College.

The clinic started with 1500 testing kits. By the end of Friday, testing workers had provided 819 COVID-19 tests. Throughout the weekend, an additional 588 people were tested on Saturday totaling 1,407 COVID-19 tests.

The test results are expected to return in the coming days and the Eastern Shore Health District will be contacting those tested with their results.

Residents expressed their concerns as they waited for the tests to be administered.

“I’m really concerned about catching it or even giving it to someone else, and not knowing whether or not I have it,” said resident Nelly Byrd, who was among the earliest in line Friday morning.

Jon Richardson, chief operating officer for the Eastern Shore District of the Virginia Department of Health, says the area is getting more resources now to stop the spread.

“We really want to identify the individuals who are the asymptomatic population that’s out there. Prior to today, we had only done symptomatic testing,” Richardson said.

This drive-thru clinic was much-needed for the rural Eastern Shore. Accomack County is second only to Virginia Beach for total number of cases in the Tidewater region, despite being much smaller.

Accomack, with a population of about 32,000 people, had 463 cases as of Friday, May 8. Virginia Beach, with about 450,000 residents, has 469. Accomack was actually ahead of Virginia’s largest city in total cases on Thursday.

Keysha Filsaime says the hours-long wait in her car was worth it.

“Just with the overwhelming numbers in the community, I just felt like everybody should be tested at this point,” she said.

Meanwhile, neighboring Northampton County (population roughly 12,000) has 149 cases and the 3rd highest rate of cases per capita. It also now has Virginia’s fourth-highest fatality rate, 43 per 100K.

In the last week, the two counties combined for 227 new cases.

“You don’t want to be walking around here with it and not know about it because you don’t want to spread it to your family member,” said resident Corraine Morris, who identified herself as a health care worker. “I know how important it is.”

More than half of the cases on the Shore are linked to Accomack’s Perdue and Tyson poultry plants, which employ about 3,000 people. State officials likened the plants to a cruise ship disembarking on the Shore every day, with many workers going home to dense living conditions with extended family living in the same home or nearby.

Outbreaks at the facilities have led to widescale testing at the sites.

“The poultry plants have been testing their own workers this week voluntarily and they’ve done that through third-party vendors. We set this up to follow right along with that,” Richardson said.

But now, testing is being expanded further for the whole community, with assistance from the Virginia National Guard.

The Virginia National Guard, Eastern Shore Health District, the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), CDC, the Eastern Shore Community College,  local and state law enforcement worked together to make this event a success.

Health officials say they are finally gaining some ground on the outbreak here on the Eastern Shore.

“Things got a little out of control for a couple of weeks, it really tapped our resources,” Richardson said. “We’ve pulled in in the course of this week, in addition to putting on the clinics, we pulled in about triple the amount of folks that we’ve had.”


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