NEWLAND — Avery County Health Department announced that it will be offering drive-thru testing for COVID-19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, May 7, outside the health department building, located behind Avery County Sheriff’s Office in Newland.

Any Avery County resident regardless of symptoms that would like to be tested for COVID-19 may take the test, and a doctor’s order is not needed, according to ACHD.

Patients will be asked to remain in their vehicle and a nurse will take a nasal swab for sampling. Results will not be immediate, and patients will receive a phone call with results within a few days following the test. No priority will be given during the testing hours, as the tests will be administered on a first-come, first-served basis.

“We are asking people to enter by turning right at the library, then right at the First Baptist Church, then straight by the Sheriff’s Office, and then an officer will show you which line to get in at the Health Department,” Deb Gragg, Public Health Nursing Supervisor II with Avery County Health Department said regarding the testing procedure. “We plan on doing two lines of cars that day.”

Patients will be tested utilizing a nasal swab method, where the cotton swab is placed on each side of the patient’s nose and twisted three times.

“This test is only the nasal test. This is not the nasal pharyngeal (test); that is quite uncomfortable,” Gragg added.

Although this is the first drive-thru coronavirus testing opportunity offered at the health department, it may not be the final one, as officials are open to offer testings on additional dates as supplies and payment assistance can sustain doing so.

“We plan to see how this turns out, and then we will plan more if it is wanted,” Gragg explained. “We also plan to do the serological test that tests for antibodies to COVID-19 when it becomes available.”

As for the number of tests to utilize that will be available on May 7, Gragg indicated in a May 1 email that the total number of tests is still uncertain.

“I will know more about how many tests we will have available [a couple of days prior],” Gragg said. “We are due to get another shipment, and we never know how many they will send until they arrive.”

Medicaid/insurance cards will be accepted at the testing event, while uninsured patients may also receive the test at no cost, with billing taking place through Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

“Anyone is eligible to be tested,” Gragg stressed. “We are breaking it down by part-time and full-time residents on our forms for statistics. No one will be turned down due to inability to pay.”

Avery County is the lone county in the entire state that has not reported a positive test for COVID-19 as of May 5.

According to Toe River Health District, which includes Avery County Health Department, 108 people in Avery County have been tested as of Tuesday, May 5, with 82 negative results and 26 tests pending. Yancey County reported that 132 tests have been administered in the county with 111 negative results and 20 results pending.

For more information, call Avery County Health Department at (828) 733-6031.

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