Health Districts offer community testing for COVID-19

Clinic set for May 14 at Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, two more next week

Free COVID-19 testing continues to be available for Henrico County residents who are experiencing symptoms, even if they do not have health insurance.

To remove barriers to testing, particularly for those at-risk for the disease, the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts have organized a series of walk-up clinics throughout the community since April 21.

Health officials say comprehensive testing – along with preventative measures such as social distancing and wearing a mask – are critical to limiting spread of the coronavirus.

Three testing clinics were scheduled this week, including one from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, 1440 N. Laburnum Ave. The others were Monday at Community Supermarket, 1915 Mechanicsville Turnpike, and today at Southwood Apartments, 1200 Southwood Parkway, in Richmond.

Two more clinics are set for next week:

  • Tuesday, May 19 at Diversity Richmond, 1407 Sherwood Ave. in Richmond
  • Thursday, May 21 at Tuckahoe Middle School, 9000 Three Chopt Road in Henrico

Regardless of their location, the clinics are open by appointment to residents of Henrico and Richmond. To request an appointment, call the health districts’ COVID-19 hotline at (804) 205-3501 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. About 100 tests are available at each site.

To be eligible, residents must be experiencing at least one symptom of the disease: fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches, loss of smell, cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

The clinics are intended for individuals ages 5 and older who are uninsured or underinsured, particularly those who have a serious underlying medical condition, are pregnant or are 65 or older.

Results are typically available in three to five business days. If a test comes back positive, nurses and other case investigators conduct “contact tracing” to identify everyone with whom the individual had close contact while infectious – generally 48 hours prior to the first symptoms.

About 3,000 contacts have been identified and encouraged to self-quarantine, said Amy Popovich, a nurse manager with the Richmond Health District.

As of today, Henrico had 1,106 cases of COVID-19, with 112 deaths, and Richmond had 565 cases, with 18 deaths, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.

The clinics have been successful, with participation increasing as awareness has grown, Popovich said. 

On Saturday, Henrico staff and Virginia Medical Reserve Corps volunteers canvassed neighborhoods around the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, leaving flyers in English and Spanish to promote Thursday’s clinic.

Clinics also have been held at the Woodman West and Nottingham Green communities in Henrico and at Hillside Court, Creighton Court and Gilpin Court in Richmond. Officials are looking for a site near Mosby Court. 

Popovich said the health districts have begun using larger, community-based facilities, like the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, rather than neighborhood locations, because the larger facilities can accommodate testing indoors if necessary due to weather.

“We’re still mobile” throughout the area, she said. “We’re trying to be in accessible places near bus stops.”

Officials expect to continue holding the clinics through at least May and are monitoring the potential availability of self-swab kits that would allow individuals to test themselves at home. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced last month the first diagnostic test for COVID-19 with a home collection option.

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