Portsmouth hosts several free COVID-19 testing sites in August


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The key to keeping the number of COVID-19 cases straight is through plenty of testing.

In Virginia, we’re at a 7.4 percent positive test rate, but testing numbers have been dwindling in Virginia. We are around 13,000 tests per day, down from a high of 17,000.

Several cities are holding free events to help people get tested. The City of Portsmouth held the second in a series of screenings for the virus Monday at a church in the city.

Health officials know there are barriers for some communities when it comes to getting tested: transportation, financial stability, and time. So, they’re hoping these free testing sites break down the barrier.

Cleo Langley is just one of dozens of people who got a COVID-19 test done at Calvary Baptist Church.

“I feel like it’s something that everybody should do, because if they did, there wouldn’t be so many people around here that [have] it and wouldn’t be spreading it, and I don’t want to spread it to no one,” she said.

Monday’s site was one of four testing sites they’ll have this month — completely free.

Population Health Manager Avanti Allen-Benson says the location of their site has significant meaning.

“With the numbers rising, especially with the high cases we have in Portsmouth, it’s very important. Not everyone has the resources to have to pay. When it’s free, there is no charge; that breaks down some of the barriers,” said Allen-Benson.

Langley believes the free testing is exactly what her community needs to move forward in a positive light.

“A lot of people are afraid to, but they need to do it. It’s something to save you and your family,” she said.

And if you are afraid, what should you expect?

10 On Your Side’s Tamara Scott got a test Monday, too, to show how quick and easy it can be.

First, they’ll ask you to write down important information, so bring your official identification and wear your mask until it’s time to swab.

The nurse did give a warning that there would be a stinging sensation, but it’s over just as quickly as it starts.

Allen-Benson said the line of cars seen Monday shows her that people care and want to stay healthy. She’s happy to help provide the resources to do that.

“Testing is important in order for us to bring those numbers down. We have to test, do the contact tracing. It’s very important,” she said. “This will give us an opportunity to know what zip codes are most affected, what we need to do and [it] sort of guides us in what we need to do next.”

She said it can be uncomfortable, but it’s a step in the right direction for this community to combat the virus.

There are more testing events. The next day is Aug. 17 at the new Mt Vernon Baptist Church at 3555 Victory Boulevard. Another one will be on Aug. 24 at Ebenezer Baptist Church at 728 Effingham Street. Both events begin at 10 a.m. and end at 2 p.m.

For more information, call the Portsmouth Health Department at 757-393-8585.

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