More COVID-19 testing today in Highlands

Highlands-Cashiers Health Foundation is sponsoring another round of COVID-19 testing in Highlands today (June 13).

To expedite the drive-through testing process, preregistration is required, and no unscheduled “walk-ins” can be accepted. Those who want to be tested must preregister by calling 828.506.6907 to initiate registration.

People being tested at The Village Green had their vitals taken and then a nasal throat swab to test for COVID-19. The entire process takes approx. 3 min.

Each interested participant will be called back (after initiating the registration phone call) to schedule a time, and provide required health history, insurance, and ID information. Uninsured and self-pay participants are eligible for this testing initiative. Confidential results will be provided directly to participants by phone.

The test has been described as a strong tickle, pictured above is a second after the test was conducted.

HCHF CEO and Executive Director Robin Tindall said they began exploring the idea of on-site COVID-19 testing on the plateau several weeks ago. The HCHF Board approved the project in May and the idea was discussed with public health professionals. There were only a few positive cases at the time, but HCHF began this testing initiative as a proactive measure.

Fast forward to the present and Tindall said it shows how quickly the situation can change.

“Widespread community testing is now critically important, and everyone has come together to make it happen,” she said. “That’s what makes our plateau communities a special place to live.”

Doctors from the Mountain Park Medical Clinic disinfected their suits between patients.

HCHF recently sponsored drive-through COVID-19 at The Village Green in Cashiers on June 6. HCHF Board Chair Dr. Walter Clark said the community is better equipped to slow the spread of COVID-19 being as informed as possible.

“Obviously, the more testing we can do, the more we’ll be able to know what our situation is,” said Clark. “Up until recently testing has been very limited. We’re just trying to help and enhance as much as we can. The more testing the better. There could be people without symptoms walking around in our community because they don’t know. We need to limit that.”

By having scheduled appointments, patients moved smoothly through the testing process.

Restrictions have lightened up since North Carolina entered Phase 2 on May 22, and testing is now open to asymptomatic patients. Since then, the number of positive cases has been on the rise throughout the plateau. Macon County Public Health reported 152 active cases of COVID-19 on June 11 and Jackson County Public Health reported 86 positive cases of COVID-19 on June 12.

HCHF funded the testing through grants to Mountain Park Urgent Care in Sylva to cover uninsured and self-pay patients and Blue Ridge Fee Dental Clinic in Cashiers to take patient’s medical information before they are tested. John Miller from MPUC was one of several people who conducted the tests at The Village Green on Saturday. He said having the test done gives people piece of mind.

It was almost 80 degrees in Cashiers on June 6. Doctors are not allowed to eat or drink anything, or use the restroom once their personal protective Equipment is put on.

“We schedule all of the appointments and get the patient’s info on the front end so it runs smoothly,” said Miller. “When they get here, we check their vitals and do a nasal swab to the back of their throat for COVID. It’s basically a screening process to ID who has it and eliminates those who don’t. Maybe someone needs to go back to work and just wants to make sure.”

Clark said the testing process is not as bad as some have described.

“Some people are concerned that it’s painful, but it’s not,” said Clark. “It kind of tickles. And anyone who wants to be tested should be able to.”

Click HERE to learn more about HCHF.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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