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Free COVID-19 testing next month

Free COVID-19 testing will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 3 in the parking lot of the city’s Health and Human Services Building downtown at 135 Hall Ave.

The tests will be given on a first-come, first-served basis until they run out.

The city is partnering with the Western Tidewater Health District for the testing event, which comes as the seven-day positivity rate in the district and across the state is rising, and after the Thanksgiving holiday, which health officials fear may cause a further spread of COVID-19.

In Western Tidewater, the seven-day positivity rate has gone up from 3.4% Nov. 5 to 6.5% Nov. 12, the latest date the average is available on the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard. The statewide seven-day average is also on the rise, having gone from 4.7% Oct. 7 to 6.2% Nov. 5 and 7.3% Nov. 12.

The state health department reported a record-high 2,677 cases Nov. 16, though it said that number is due “to a catch-up from the VDH data system being down for upgrades for a few hours over the weekend.” Of that amount, 599 were in the Eastern Region and 20 in Western Tidewater — 12 in Suffolk, two in Franklin, five in Isle of Wight County and one in Southampton County. Suffolk on Nov. 12 reported 35 cases, its highest one-day total since Oct. 4, when there were 115 cases. That Oct. 4 tally was the result of mass testing at Western Tidewater Regional Jail.

The number of COVID-19 tests being done in Western Tidewater has been largely declining since late September, when the seven-day positivity rate in the region was above 14%. From Nov. 1 through Nov. 15, they have ranged from 188 Nov. 3 to 405 Nov. 12, with 10 of the 15 days below 300 per day being reported to the health department.

There have been 21 COVID-19 outbreaks in Western Tidewater — 12 at long-term care facilities, four each at congregate settings and correctional facilities and one in a healthcare setting.

At the testing event, those walking up for the test will be required to be socially-distanced, and anyone over 5 must wear face masks.

The tests are a nasopharyngeal swab, or PCR test, that determines the current presence of the virus, and asymptomatic carriers can test positive if they have the virus. Unlike an antibody test, the PCR test cannot determine if someone has previously been exposed to the virus.

People are expected to receive their test results within three to four business days, with those testing positive receiving a phone call. Those who test negative will be sent results in the mail.

For more information, call 757-514-4700.