Walk-up COVID-19 testing to begin in Richmond-area minority communities

Posted at 11:02 AM, Apr 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-18 21:15:41-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Pop-up COVID-19 testing is set to begin next week in predominately African-American communities throughout Richmond and Henrico County.

"I think what is immediately obvious is that the data tells us that African Americans are carrying a higher burden of disease than their counterparts," Richmond and Henrico County Health District Director Dr. Danny Avula said. "It's not surprising. It continues to be frustrating and heartbreaking, but it is indicative of the underlying health disparities that we've known about for a long time."

The pop-up testing will begin Tuesday at soon-to-be announced locations. Call 804-205-3501 to set up an appointment.

"We've developed a screening process where individuals will call our hotline, be screened for symptoms, be screened for insurance, and then assigned an appointment," Dr. Avula said. "This kind of thing, walk up testing around COVID-19 has not been done very much throughout the country. We found a few examples in San Francisco, in Camden, New Jersey and in Washington, DC."

'Calm before the storm.'

Dr. Avula also said social distancing is working as hospitalizations have not spiked and less than 25% of nearby ventilators are in use.

"It feels like a calm before the storm. And and hopefully that storm will never come," Avula said. "I have no doubt that we'll see an increase in cases and an increase in hospitalizations. But the goal of all of this was to keep our health systems from being overwhelmed so that the most vulnerable members of our community could get the care they needed to make it through."

Avula said if things continue on this trajectory, we might be able to pivot away from the plans to make Richmond Convention Center an overflow hospital.

He said he believed the peak in Richmond would be this summer, meaning we have flattened, but also lengthened the curve.

"So much of the beginning was all about flattening the curve, this idea that we wanted to keep that peak lower to preserve the capacity of our health systems. But that also does and likely will mean that we have a lower but longer curve," he said. As I talk to more people who have been looking at this, I think will will see a peak a little bit earlier than originally projected. But the good news about all of this is that that peak will be significantly lower."

Avula said we're about a month away from antibody testing, which will be useful in determining when it's safe to reopen all of our businesses and offices again.

"There are a couple of other things that will change the course of how we as a community begin to come out of this," he said. "The wider availability of testing and actually knowing where the disease is. We've been hearing about the prospect of this for weeks. I think we're probably still a month away from widespread antibody testing. But the idea is that once that is made available, we'll be able to widely test and see who actually has had exposure already. That information will be really useful for us iin terms of being able to decide when are we going to open back up as a society."

Depend on CBS 6 News and for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.