Free COVID tests, flu shots offered
The Jefferson County Public Health Department is offering free COVID-19 tests and flu vaccines from noon to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.
The Board of Commissioners had expressed hope for a drive-through testing event back in July but couldn't get enough tests previously.
The Public Health Department received new Abbot BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests as part of the countywide testing strategy, said Public Health spokeswoman Tami Kepa'a.
To get a COVID test, people must be 18 or older and provide accurate contact information and county of residence.
Those who get flu shots must be 19 or older.
The department is recommending that anyone with symptoms be tested.
Some people can be tested regardless of symptoms. They include: close contacts of confirmed or presumptive cases; people exposed to COVID-19 in a congregate setting, such as residential care facilities, childcare facilities, group homes and schools; migrant and seasonal agricultural workers; people who identify as Black, Latino, Native American, Asian or Pacific Islander; people who have a disability; and people whose first language is not English.
Kepa'a said the tests are easy to use and don't require additional lab equipment to complete the analysis. She said they're also reliable and inexpensive.
"And finally, they give fast results," she said. "Results can be read within 15 minutes."
She said the department has also been working with local providers to make sure they have an adequate number of COVID-19 testing supplies and access to the rapid tests.
She said the county's positive test results have fluctuated from 6.4% to 20.3%. The drive-through event may help the department "better understand how widespread the virus is within our community."
Those who test positive will be asked to isolate, and family members may be asked to quarantine as well.
People who previously tested negative might test positive if the first sample was collected early in the infection.
Those who test negative symptoms should continue to protect themselves and others, Kepa'a said.
"Wear a mask, wash hands often, stay 6 feet from others," she said.
"As October marks the traditional start of the flu season," Kepa'a said, "it was important to combine both the testing for COVID-19 as well as the vaccination for influenza. Currently, Public Health and healthcare providers are concerned about the possibility of a 'twindemic' or outbreaks of both influenza and COVID-19 occurring in a community at the same time. As we have been working for the last several months to address our COVID-19 cases locally and starting to see positive Influenza B results as well, the potential for these two viruses to circulate through the community has increased."
The county has had a total of 593 cases as of 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, and it marked its ninth death to COVID-19 last week, as well.
Jefferson County Public Health reported on Oct. 15 that there were 15 positive cases under self-isolation and another 35 of their close contacts under quarantine.
The department would like to host similar events throughout Jefferson County. People who are interested hosting an event should call Public Health Director Michael Baker at 541-475-4456 for more information.
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