SPRUCE PINE – The Mitchell County Health Department, part of Toe River Health District, conducted drive-thru testing for the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, Thursday, May 21, at Harris Middle School.
Toe River Health District Director Diane Creek said the department performed 185 tests in the four hours the drive-thru was open.
“It went really smoothly,” Creek said. “The beauty of drive-thru testing is that we can do mass testing. There’s no way we could do 185 people in a day, one-by-one, at the health department.”
The drive-thru testing clinic allowed anyone, regardless of insurance status or whether one was showing symptoms, to be tested in their car.
“The importance of this testing is that it helps catch the asymptomatic people,” Creek said. “If a person is asymptomatic, they are feeling fine and they’re going out in public. But, in the meantime, they’re spreading the virus and they’re contagious.”
The Mitchell County operation was the third drive-thru testing clinic Toe River Health District conducted. The first clinic took place Thursday, May 7, in Avery County, where nearly 300 people were tested. The second took place in Yancey County on Thursday, May 14, where approximately 300 were tested. Two people who were asymptomatic tested positive during the drive-thru in Yancey County.
Drive-thru tests across the state have been ramping up over the past few weeks because the resources are finally available, Creek said.
“The coronavirus kind of caught everybody off guard,” Creek said. “Two months ago, we didn’t have enough testing kits or testing supplies, and the labs didn’t have enough staff to do this type of massive testing. It’s just taken time for everything to catch up.”
Those resources are being depleted quickly, however, and the results process is slowing again with the increase in mass testing, Creek said.
“It’s taking five, six, sometimes seven days to get the test results back,” she said. “It’s taking a little while. But, we’re ordering all that we can because we want to continue to do drive-thrus.”
While Creek is thankful the virus hasn’t hit the region too hard, she still said people need to follow social distancing recommendations.
“No matter what happens with opening up the state, people need to follow the guidelines to keep themselves safe,” Creek said. “The coronavirus hasn’t changed. It’s still there.”
People tested during the drive-thru event in Mitchell County should receive their results by the end of the week, Creek said.