A drive-in COVID-19 testing clinic is planned for Tuesday, July 28 from 8-11 a.m. at the VFW Fairgrounds in Fort Payne. The event is hosted by the DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency and Alabama Department of Public Health.
EMA Director Anthony Clifton said the event is an opportunity for anyone who suspects they may have COVID-19 but is reluctant to visit a doctor’s office.
“To get tested at the hospital, for example, you’re told to first consult your doctor for a diagnosis. If the symptoms feel mild, some people skip going to the doctor to avoid that $40 co-pay,” Clifton said.
State testing has prioritized persons with symptoms, healthcare facility workers, workers in congregate living settings, first responders with symptoms and persons without symptoms who have underlying medical conditions or a disability placing them at a higher risk of complications.
No appointments are required and the drive-in clinic will not turn away anyone. Those with health insurance will be asked for their information, but Clifton said there will be no money required to get tested. He estimates the clinic can test up to 200 people during the clinic.
Cars will enter the Fairgrounds from 19th Street North and move through stations along the oval walking track at the fairgrounds. Specimens will be collected for sending to a lab for testing. After persons are tested for COVID-19, they should plan to go home to self-isolate and remain there until their results are reported to them. Positive results will lead to an initial call for contact tracing and self-quarantine for a given timeframe.
“If anyone is feeling sick or thinks they may have been exposed to the coronavirus, we encourage them to come get tested,” he said.
Symptoms consist of either cough or shortness of breath (difficulty breathing) or at least two of the following; fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, sore throat, fatigue, congestion or runny nose, and new loss of taste or smell.
Clifton said his own daughter tested positive for COVID-19 after their family was tempted to dismiss her sore throat on seasonal allergies to grass and flowers.
He believes the coronavirus has spread so quickly because many people who catch it in the 20-to-40 age range experience mild symptoms that may be similarly dismissed.
“These people are positive and are able to spread it to others who are more vulnerable to it. They may not feel that bad, but that person they bring it home to – their parents or grandparents – it may be a death sentence for them if they are diabetic or have breathing difficulties. People in bad health cannot afford to catch this,” Clifton said.
In the last 14 days, 22,888 cases have been reported statewide. Over the same period, 571 positive cases were detected in DeKalb County as a result of 3,258 tests conducted locally.
Patients have reportedly had mild to severe symptoms appearing anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure.
“We saw a 600% increase in positive cases being reported,” Clifton said. “Some may say it’s because of increased testing, but testing capacity has not increased by 600%. Our mortality rate has been low because we did what we were supposed to do, but the numbers have increased since everybody went back to normal life right before the Memorial Day holiday. We are privileged to live where we have good healthcare and nutrition. This is not a third world country, yet COVID-19 has still killed more than a thousand people in Alabama.”
The Alabama COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard shows cumulative totals since the coronavirus first appeared in Alabama in March, so while the case count now exceeds 67,711, only 22,888 new cases have been reported in the last 14 days. ADPH reports 29,736 presumed recoveries from people who previously tested positive.
Clifton expressed his belief that testing of asymptomatic persons to detect the virus and isolate those patients so they don’t continue to spread it to others is “the only way we are ever going to get ahead of this.”
For more information, visit alabamapublichealth.gov.