Changes enacted to sustain Buncombe County COVID-19 response capacity

Press release from Buncombe County:

In an effort to keep from overwhelming our local COVID-19 response capacity, modifications to the Buncombe County COVID-19 community testing sites will go into effect this week. These changes are intended to make the COVID-19 response in Buncombe County more sustainable and responsive to the needs of our community.

Since the most recent version of the Buncombe County’s COVID-19 testing sites started on June 30th, 2020, an average of 850 specimens have been collected at these sites weekly for testing.

In response to the overall increase in the number of tests being ordered, as well as issues with supply chain, labs nationwide are running into capacity issues that are extending the amount of time that it takes to receive test results. Currently the turnaround time for test results on specimens collected at the community testing sites is 7-8 days or longer. Additionally, due to limitations in staffing and storage capacity, site partners are unable to sustain the volume of tests we have seen in the initial weeks of testing. To address these issues, there will only be 300 test kits available at each community testing site. The type of specimens that will be collected also will be changing to nasopharyngeal (meaning that a long thin swab is placed into a nostril and passed into the back of the nose and throat).

At this time, testing sites at the Swannanoa Ingles on Tuesdays and at the AB Tech Allied Health Building on Sundays will continue until September 6th, 2020. As mentioned above, the cap on testing for each site is 300 people. The queue at these sites will be closed after this number of tests are completed or queued up. Early testing hours for staff of long-term and congregate care facilities will continue to be offered at the Swannanoa Ingles on Tuesdays from 9:30- 10:30 am.

The Thursday COVID-19 community testing site at the Buncombe County Sports Park is closed indefinitely to conserve resources and address current local capacity. The calendar found at has been updated to reflect this change.

COVID-19 testing is available through urgent cares, pharmacies, and medical providers. The intent of the Buncombe County community testing sites is to serve those who have symptoms of COVID-19 or are close contacts to lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, and certain populations who are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and do not have access to resources for testing. They are drive-through sites, but walk-ups will also be served. Lastly, the testing sites are intended for residents of Buncombe County and staff who work in congregate care facilities in Buncombe County and cannot access testing at their facility. Other individuals should go to NCDHHS Find My Testing Place website to find other testing options.

At this time, NC DHHS and the CDC recommend repeated testing in only a few situations:
· Weekly testing of staff and residents of long-term care facilities with one or more cases of lab-confirmed COVID-19
· Biweekly testing of staff of skilled nursing facilities without cases
· When someone is identified as a close contact to a lab-confirmed case and was tested outside the preferred timeframe

There are no recommendations for repeated testing of any other individuals at this time. Showing up to the testing sites repeatedly for unnecessary testing is a drain on critical resources. Additionally, insurance companies will not cover testing if it is not medically needed or recommended. Prevention, not testing, should be the primary focus of everyone. Limit activities outside your household and follow the 3 W’s – wear a mask, wait 6 feet away from others, and wash your hands.

Please assess your need for testing if you think you might have COVID-19 or have been in close contact to someone with COVID-19, regardless of your symptoms. The Buncombe Ready COVID-19 Self Checker is one resource you can use. You may also contact your healthcare provider or you can also click here to find a testing location near you.

COVID-19 testing is suggested for the following people:

  • Anyone with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19
  • Anyone (with or without symptoms) who is a close contact of a known positive case
  • Anyone (with or without symptoms) in the following groups who believes they may have been exposed to COVID-19:
    -Persons who live in or have regular contact with high-risk settings (e.g., long-term care facility, homeless shelter, correctional facility, migrant farmworker camp)
    -Persons who are at high risk of severe illness (e.g., people over 65 years of age, people of any age with underlying health conditions)
    -Historically marginalized populations
    -Healthcare workers or first responders (e.g. EMS, law enforcement, fire department, military)
    -Front-line and essential workers (grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, child care workers, construction workers, food processing plant workers, etc.) in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain
    -People who attended mass gatherings (protests, marches, rallies, funerals, parties, cookouts, etc.), particularly if they were in crowds or other situations where they couldn’t practice effective social distancing

COVID-19 community testing is NOT for the following people:
– People without symptoms who have no known exposure to COVID-19
– People who have the resources to consult with their medical provider or arrange testing elsewhere

COVID-19 Symptoms Include:
· Fever or chills
· Cough
· Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
· Fatigue
· Muscle or body aches
· Headache
· New loss of taste or smell
· Sore throat
· Congestion or runny nose
· Nausea or vomiting
· Diarrhea

Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, Buncombe County Interim Public Health Director, further explains the need for the changes, saying, “As we all know, change is the only constant in COVID-19 and we ask our community to continue to be flexible and responsive along with us as we try to slow the spread of COVID in Buncombe County by doing what we can to use available tools and resources. More unnecessary tests mean longer wait times for test results. Longer wait times make it harder to keep COVID-19 from spreading into the community. In short, it is more important to focus on preventing COVID-19 by reducing your exposure to others, wearing a face covering, and keeping physical distance than getting tested if you don’t have symptoms or meet the criteria. If you have questions, we can help. Use the self-checker tool on the Buncombe Ready website or call our Communicable Disease Hotline at (828) 250-5300 to ask questions about symptoms or testing.”

What to expect at the community testing sites:
· We ask that the public exercise patience while waiting to be tested at the community testing sites. There are a limited number of COVID-19 tests available and once that number is reached, the site will be closed down.
· If possible, please fill out the screening tool found in the Buncombe County Testing Sites article and bring it with you to the testing site to expedite the process.
· If you have private insurance, payment should be covered by your insurance company (unless you are getting repeatedly tested, as mentioned above). If you get tested at the community testing sites, make sure to bring your insurance card if you have one.
· It is also important to wear a face covering and keep at least 6 feet between yourself and others if outside of your car.
· Due to the recent increase in demand for testing across the US, it may take 7 days or longer to get your test result. This time frame will vary based on laboratory demand at any given time. While waiting for your result, please follow the instructions in the “Steps for People After COVID-19 Testing” handout. You should stay at home, away from others, until you have received your test results if you have COVID-19 symptoms or came into close contact with someone who has tested positive.
· If your test shows you have COVID-19, a Buncombe County Public Health nurse will contact you. If your test is negative for COVID-19, meaning you were not infected with COVID-19 at the time of your test, you will not be contacted with your results.
· More information on how to access test results can be found here. You may also review the attached document that outlines test result guidance for community testing sites. It is important to follow the steps outlined in this document after completing your COVID-19 test.

COVID-19 Testing Sites for Buncombe County Residents:

  • East Buncombe2217 US 70 Hwy., Swannanoa (Ingles Parking Lot)Every Tuesday, Beginning June 30thTesting will be from 10:30 am until 1:30 pm (or until tests run out)-Early testing hours for staff of long term and congregate care facilities will be offered at the Swannanoa Ingles from 9:30- 10:30 am.

  • Central BuncombeAB Tech, Genevieve Circle, Asheville (Allied Health Parking Lot)Every Sunday, Beginning July 5thTesting will be from 1:30 pm until 5:30 pm (or until tests run out)-Testing sites are outdoors and will be canceled in the event of storms based on notification from the National Weather Service.

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