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WNC opens more COVID-19 test sites in a race to keep up with demand

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To meet the growing demand for COVID tests, some local health departments in Western North Carolina  are opening additional testing sites. 

A COVID testing site will open  on the campus of UNC Asheville starting this Friday 1/21 from 1 p.m.-8 p.m., as well as Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Blue Ridge Room in the Highsmith Student Union, located at 2500 University Heights, Asheville NC 28804. Weekend testing will be available for the next six weeks and is open to the public. No appointment needed.

More resources for testing are listed at ncdhhs.gov/GetTested, including the Harrah’s Cherokee Center testing site, 87 Haywood St., Asheville, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Haywood County Health and Human Services is partnering with Optum Serve and Lake Junaluska Assembly to offer free COVID-19 diagnostic testing to Haywood County residents.

According to a HCHHS press release: Lake Junaluska Assembly will host the testing site at its Wilson Children’s Complex as a drive-through site. Patients will enter through the parking lot off North Lakeshore Drive and follow the signage through the site.  Both rapid antigen and PCR test options will be available. Rapid tests provide results in as little as 15 minutes. PCR test results are returned several days later.

The Haywood County testing site is by appointment only, please do not arrive for testing if you do not have an appointment for everyone who plans to be tested. Masks will be required to enter the testing area. To book an appointment visit: COVID-19 Test Registration (lhi.care)

More resources for testing are listed at ncdhhs.gov/GetTested

At-home COVID-19 test kits:

Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) has purchased a limited number of at-home rapid COVID-19 test kits to distribute throughout the community to bridge testing needs while testing demand remains high. BCHHS is also providing face coverings for distribution along with the test kits. Vaccination, testing, staying home when you feel unwell, and correctly wearing a face covering can help in the battle against the very contagious Omicron variant.  

According to a press release from BCHHS: The testing kits will be distributed in two ways to ensure equity and coverage throughout the county. First, Public Health has identified 22 equity-focused community organizations that work in one or more of the following domains: 1) Service to Historically Marginalized Populations, 2) Service in Low-Income Areas, and/or 3) Service in Rural Communities. These organizations will receive test kits and face coverings that they will provide to their service population and/or community events serving their populations.

Secondly, test kits and masks will be distributed  at fixed sites geographically located throughout the county. Beginning Thursday, January 20, 2022 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., 13 fire departments and BCHHS (40 Coxe Avenue, Downtown Asheville) will distribute test kits and masks.

Community members may want to call ahead to locations to check if supply is still available.

The fixed site locations will provide at least one (1) kit per adult but no more than two (2) kits per adult and at least one (1) bag of face coverings per individual. Each test kit box contains one (1) at-home test, instructions for use, and guidance for testing and isolation and each face covering bag contains ten (10) face coverings. The kits and face coverings are free, and no identification is needed to obtain these items.  

The BCHHS at-home test kit distribution comes at the same time as every household in the country can order four (4) free at-home kits through the newly created www.covidtests.gov website. Once ordered, kits are expected to ship in 7-12 days.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services also offers at-home PCR test kits through LabCorp, which are delivered at no cost via FedEx and returned to the lab for processing. Those kits can be accessed here: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/about-covid-19/testing/covid-19-test-home-collection-kit-program

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.