Chris Schulz Published

W.Va. Scaling Back Community Testing

A BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 test made by Abbott Laboratories, one of the two new rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

COVID-19 testing is being scaled back across the state.

During Thursday’s press briefing, Gov. Jim Justice announced a reduction in the state’s COVID-19 testing regiment, citing low attendance at testing sites.

“To be perfectly honest, what’s happening is maybe all day two people come by or whatever, and we’re just spending money that really truly we don’t need to spend right now,” Justice said. “If things happen to get worse, we’ll be right back out there.”

State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad made assurances that free testing, primarily in the form of at-home antigen kits, will still be readily available.

“We do want to reassure everyone that we will still have free testing available with our antigen home test kits,” Amjad said. “Those are dispersing out to health departments, federally qualified health centers and some other agencies, but we just want to make sure that everyone knows that we do have testing available still.”

While antigen tests, also known as rapid tests, provide convenience and fast results, usually in 15 to 20 minutes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does acknowledge they are less reliable for people without symptoms compared to a laboratory test and may require follow-up testing.

The announcement comes as COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations continue to slowly rise in the state. Retired Maj Gen. Jim Hoyer said the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations had reached 178, and warned that hospital capacity has decreased.

“Over a year ago, we were concerned about watching for the number of 800 and our hospitals based on capacity,” Hoyer said. “At one point we exceeded that to 1,100. Today, based on staffing issues and bed availability, our number that we now watch is 500.”

Coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh says current case numbers could be more than 30 times higher than official counts due in part to the rise of at-home COVID-19 testing.

Justice and his advisers continue to urge West Virginians to stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.