COVID-19 community testing in Buncombe County

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Have questions about COVID-19 testing? So did I. That’s why, when I started feeling a few symptoms I was concerned about, I decided to get a test. It was negative, btw. I might have also been just a little bit curious and I figured y’all were, too. So today, I’m giving you the scoop on Buncombe County’s community testing – everything from the initial screening + follow-up to the actual appointment itself – and the process for getting results

Grateful for this photogenic moment at the county community testing site. (Yeti did not get a test.) | Photo by @ashevillenomads

ICYMI, Buncombe County recently reopened community testing for COVID-19. They’re working with a different testing partner, Genova Diagnostics, that has sped up the time it takes to get results. They were initially working with Western North Carolina Community Health Center and had scheduled 10 weeks of public testing, but put the process on hold in late July. 

The County not only switched to Genova, they also changed the protocols for getting tested, including requiring appointments for their community drive-through sites and doing pre-screening with folks. They’re reserving appointments for people who are experiencing symptoms, who have been exposed to COVID-19, or who work in high-risk settings to help make testing more efficient + keep volume down at sites. What that means: If you want to get a test but don’t fit these criteria, you should check in with your doctor or head to another testing site – check out the list of sites here

Here’s how the process went for me –

  • I started with the COVID-19 self-checker, which gave me a way to report symptoms to county health officials. It asked what I was experiencing, as well as underlying conditions that might put me at a higher risk for complications. 
  • Based on results from the self-checker, I was invited to make an appointment at a community testing site. I completed a pre-test screening questionnaire that collected my contact + insurance information. Note: Most health insurance plans must fully cover the cost of a test. If you don’t have insurance, other programs will help partially or fully cover the cost, or test sites may offer a sliding scale
  • I was assigned a testing site + time later that week.  
  • At the open-air, drive-through testing site, I gave my name and drove through four stations. At the first, I was given an overview of the process and signed paperwork, which I handed in at the second tent
  • A county health official administered the test at the third station. I’m not gonna lie, I was very nervous. But the process was no big deal. My nostrils were swabbed for around 10 seconds each with a Q-Tip (a regular-sized one). It wasn’t the most comfortable thing ever, but my eyes only watered a little bit, and I didn’t sneeze.
  • At the fourth station, the official explained how the results would be communicated – within 24-48 hours and via phone or on the web. They also advised me to quarantine to protect myself + others while I waited to hear from them, under the assumption that I was infected. I got a call the next morning with my negative results. While the new tests are supposed to be more accurate, the county employee who called said I could always schedule a second test if I was worried and still symptomatic.