Health dept. tests 73 people in two hours on first official day of vulnerable population testing

MT. HOPE, WV (WOAY) – Although the Fayette County Health Department began community-wide testing two weeks ago, this week was Fayette County’s turn to do the barrier-free testing ordered by the state for minority groups and other vulnerable populations.

On Tuesday, the health department, alongside the Mt. Hope Fire and EMS team, tested 73 individuals in their two-hour time frame.

“We are starting here in Mt. Hope as they’ve been doing a feeding program here in the community, so this will be to provide service to people who can’t necessarily drive, that have been walking up here since the COVID-19 pandemic started, and they started the feeding programs, so it’s mainly for those folks today,” Fayette County Health Officer Dr. Anita Stewart said. 

The Mt. Hope Fire and EMS station was picked as the prime spot for testing on Tuesday as they have been feeding the community during the pandemic.

Anyone, symptomatic or not, could have walked or driven through to receive a free test as the goal was to give barrier-free access to the state’s most vulnerable who might not otherwise have the means or opportunities to receive a test. 

“What we know with vulnerable populations is that they’re more likely to suffer from COVID-19, so their outcomes are not as good,” Dr. Stewart said. “They’re more likely to have morbidity and mortality, so they’re more likely to have complications from COVID-19 and are more likely to potentially die from COVID-19. So our goal in any vulnerable population is to meet them where they are and reach them where they live and provide barrier-free access.” 

After an asymptomatic daycare worker tested positive last week, the health department knows it is not only important to provide this free access but to see the prevalence of the virus especially within communities. 

“We can’t look at you and say, ‘Oh you have COVID-19.’ You might not be having symptoms,” Dr. Stewart said. “We know that 85% of the spread of COVID-19 happens during an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic phase of the virus, so even if you do, down the road, develop symptoms, you’ve likely shed a lot of virus ahead of time and effected and exposed people ahead of time.” 

On Wednesday, the health department will be partnering with New River Health and will be doing the free testing at Kilsyth Freewill Baptist Church in Mt. Hope from 3 p.m.-7 p.m., and then again on Thursday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Oak Hill High School. 

The health department also reported that there were no positives from the Midland Trail community-wide testing event last week.

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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.