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Demand ramps up for COVID tests in Central Virginia

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Posted at 10:32 PM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 06:18:27-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- If you’re finding it more challenging to schedule a COVID test, you’re probably not alone. While health leaders said testing supplies were still plentiful, demand is ramping up.

"We are hearing from our provider, colleagues, pharmacies, that the that there is increased demand on testing. That the same-day testing demand can't really be met," said Virginia's Vaccination Coordinator, Dr. Danny Avula.

Avula spoke at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center Wednesday. The location is one of four new community COVID-19 vaccination hubs around two localities being launched by the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts in September to reach those still unvaccinated.

Two of those hubs, including the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, would also administer COVID tests.

Avula said demand for testing was driven by the highly contagious delta variant. He expects that this demand will likely increase.

"So, health departments are certainly continuing to offer testing. And then we're working with other institutions and schools to be able to contract with testing vendors to meet some of that demand, especially in places that are requiring vaccination or providing the option of vaccination or weekly testing," Avula said.

Miles away in Glen Allen, a local laboratory experienced the surge firsthand.

"We are currently doing north of 25,000 to 30,000 per day, and we anticipate that number to grow drastically over the fall," said William Miller, President of Diagnostic Services for GENETWORx laboratories.

GENETWORx' main laboratory operates in Glenn Allen. Miller said they also had a laboratory in New Jersey and Phoenix, Arizona with collection sites across the country.

"Over the last 18 months, we have dedicated most of our efforts to testing COVID-19," said Miller.

Miller added that the company had administered more than 7.5 million PCR tests, getting people fast results within 24 hours. But he said in early summer, the company had to let workers go due to waning COVID test demands.

"The decline was so rapid. However, it didn't last very long. And within a matter of weeks, we started ramping back up on our hiring," said Miller.

Miller said since early July, the company has been looking to hire back even more than what was lost to prepare for a potential uptick in the fall and even had a hiring event Wednesday. He added they were looking to hire a variety of positions and that people could visit their website or call 1-800-348-2531 if they are interested in a position.

In the meantime, Miller said the company had still been able to keep up with demands and continued to produce test results within 24 hours.

"It's crucial, not just for the patient, but also to help contain the pandemic and the spread," Miller said.

Cat Long, Public Information Officer with Richmond and Henrico Health Districts said they were increasing testing and holding events several times a week to meet demand.

"The tests are more readily available and are manufactured in higher amounts than were at the beginning of the pandemic when we're first unrolling these systems," said Long. "Right now, the concern is more so about staffing capacity and availability in the community of health care providers to be able to provide this health care service."

She added that with high community transmission in Richmond, Henrico and much of Virginia, it was crucial for those who had been exposed or experienced symptoms to get tested.

"Most folks, even if they can't find testing same day, are still able to find testing within two to three days, which is still pretty good, though not perfect," said Long.

"Keep checking with the providers' schedule where you can. It might take a couple of phone calls, and we understand where that's inconvenient, but know that this is something that the public health and the medical communities are aware of, and were pouring a lot of resources into, try to make testing more available as soon as possible."

Avula also recommended at-home testing.

"For symptomatic individuals, those at home testing cards can be very helpful," said Avula. "I've referred a lot of people to those in the last 48 hours. And so far, at least here in the central Virginia region, it doesn't seem like that has been a big challenge for people to actually identify this, you know, find a place where they can get those cards."

Those looking to get tested could go to RCHD.com and look under the testing section for a full list of providers in the area and to see when testing will be offered by the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts.