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Bennett’s Creek Park hosts COVID-19 testing

The Western Tidewater Health District and the Virginia Department of Health held their second community COVID-19 testing event Wednesday in Suffolk, this time at Bennett’s Creek Park.

A line of cars began forming about two hours ahead of the 10 a.m. scheduled start of the event.

The state health department conducted the first testing at the Health and Human Services building June 5 for 451 people, according to Will Drewery, district emergency manager. Those who had a positive result Friday have already been notified, and contact tracing has begun. Health officials did not have figures on how many people tested positive or what the rate of positivity was, but estimated it to be similar to the results of two testing days in Franklin, in which there was a 2.5 percent positivity rate.

As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, Drewery said 286 people had been tested, and estimated that about 350 people would be tested. The health department had enough testing supplies for 500 tests.

At a separate testing event for the Nansemond Indian Nation Saturday, about 30 people were tested for COVID-19.

Drewery said that more than 5 percent of Suffolk’s population has now been tested, and across the district, which includes the city as well as Franklin, Isle of Wight County and Southampton County, it is approaching 5 percent.

“The continued testing is really the biggest part of this Phase II, Phase III thing,” Drewery said. “You’ve got to continue to determine where your level of prevalence is to be able to know what actions you can take.”

Going forward, Drewery said there will likely be pop-up testing events for particular hotspots rather than additional community-wide events in Suffolk. He said plans are in the works to hold two community testing events in Isle of Wight, similar to the ones that took place in Franklin and Suffolk, but details have yet to be finalized.

“What we’ll do moving forward is we may do this kind of drive-through somewhere else again,” Drewery said, “but I think what we’ll see us get into is more of like the pop-up events, like somewhere, maybe, that doesn’t have good access to transportation, or there might be a specific population we need to target based on the results that we get. We might do a pop-up shop where we (test) 50 or 100, or however many.”

The community testing events are part of a point prevalence survey by the state health department and the health district to determine who has COVID-19, regardless of who is exhibiting symptoms at the time.

Like at last week’s testing event, people filled out a short form asking for biographical information as well as answering questions about whether they have experienced recent COVID-19 symptoms.

At the front of the line, testing officials from Raleigh, N.C.-based Mako Medical took the forms, confirmed the information and administered the test, swabbing both nostrils. Like the previous test, those who test positive will receive a phone call from the state health department within a few days, and everyone will receive a letter in the mail notifying them of their test results.

Drewery said this was the first testing event in which the health department contracted out its testing, and the process was organized and smooth.

City staff, Suffolk Fire & Rescue, Suffolk Police and several council members also were at the event, including Lue Ward, Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett, Mayor Linda T. Johnson and Roger Fawcett.

“This is a great event,” Fawcett said. “Everybody out here has done a fabulous job. We’ve been saying, testing, testing, testing. If you missed an opportunity to come here, it’s unfortunate, because this has been relatively simple.”