Testing begins at NRV Fairgrounds, officials also use antibody testing

Published: Apr. 14, 2020 at 8:22 PM EDT
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has been experimenting with setting up at different testing sites to see how everything works and to gauge community response. Tuesday, they opened their makeshift site at the NRV Fairgrounds in Dublin.

Since testing began in the New River Valley, most of it has happened in the Blacksburg High School parking lot. Last week, officials tried a site at the NRV Mall.

Only one location is in operation at a time, but officials have the ability to open a second, smaller one if needed.

“We built plans to go to multiple different sites and this testing plan can be set up basically anywhere there is the space,” said Dr. Noelle Bissell, the director of the New River Health District. “All of the folks who do the logistics make it look very easy, they set it up and they break it down and it runs very easily, it is pretty labor intensive. You’re talking probably 50 people here.”

Bissell said they don’t need more than one site for now because the call center has been handling many of the cases at this time.

The NRV is unique compared to other districts because crews have partnered with the Virginia Harm Reduction Coalition to offer an antibody test in addition to the more traditional nasal swab, or PCR test.

“This is not an approved test yet; it’s a new test, but we do think it provides some information about past infection and it helps us kind of look at the course of infection from the time of exposure to the symptoms to the follow-up after someone has recovered,” Bissell said. “We look at that all on a case-by-case basis and we try to put together a really good picture of what this virus is doing in our community.”

Bissell said some people are getting double testing, the PCR and antibody test, but it really depends on where you are in progression of the illness. She said they want to collect as much data as possible to understand how this virus works in people’s systems.

Bissell said there is a newer blood test that is more sophisticated, but requires a lab to operate. She said they are working to partner with Virginia Tech research facilities to hopefully be able to incorporate this test as well.

“The more we know about what’s going on, the more we can scale our response as we do start to loosen those restrictions as we do start to resume our lives and we can respond appropriately,” Bissell said.

What started out as the Montgomery County Public Health Taskforce has become so much bigger than that now Bissell said as officials from other localities across the NRV continue to join.

“Everybody wants to help and wants to contribute to the effort and that has made our response the way it is,” she said.

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