Availability high, but officials agree better communication needed

COVID-19 tests that are free and available to anyone are being held this week at three locations in Hood River County.

No appointment is needed. Those being tested are asked to bring a form of identification, and medical insurance card if you have them. Insurance will be billed for those with coverage. The tests can be administered as drive-through or walk-up. At all three sites, the tests are administered from 3:30-7 p.m.

Here is the schedule:

Tuesday, Sept. 29 — Marine Park Pavilion, 395 Portage Road, Cascade Locks. The Pavilion is located in Marine Park, off WaNaPa Avenue across from Cascade Locks School.

Wednesday, Sept. 30 — Parkdale Elementary School, 4880 Van Nuys Drive (located north of Baseline Drive)

Thursday, Oct. 1 — River of Life Assembly Church, 979 Tucker Road, Hood River.

The tests are being administered by the organization Medical Teams International in cooperation with the Oregon Health Authority and Hood River County Health Department.

The tests are self-administered, with guidance by Medical Teams International, to reduce physical contact.

Trish Elliott, Health Department director, briefed the Hood River County Board of Commissioners Monday, emphasizing that testing opportunities are widely available in the county but better communication is needed.

According to a recent survey or providers, more than 1,000 tests are available each week in the Gorge.

Hood River County Health Department has directed people to testing providers but not done any as an entity, Elliott said, due to small staff and other constraints. “We’re busy doing other statutorily obligated work and have been referring people the many providers who are doing tests.”

But Elliott noted that nearly all primary care providers (PCPs) in the county can administer the tests, and those without PCPs can find referrals, including through PCPs themselves.

“In the Gorge region, virtually all our PC providers are doing testing or know where to get testing done,” Elliott said, adding that Hood River County has not seen facility- or workplace-related COVID-19 outbreaks in recent weeks, and “little hospitalization and no deaths” since the pandemic began.

The survey of providers indicated extensive testing availability, with an average turnaround of seven days for results of tests. (Four of the nine said their turnaround time was from one to four days.) The survey also asked about availability of testing to people without PCPs, their process for reporting positive results, ability to host or assist with mass testing for outbreak situations, and other topics.

As a step toward improving education, the Health Department will increase requests to area partner agencies to get the word out via their online and social media resources, and Health Department is working with consultant Paul Lindberg of Hood River on developing an informational “dashboard” — a web-based directory about where and how to get testing, among other information — to be made available within a few weeks.

County Commission member Karen Joplin, who serves on the inter-agency COVID-19 medical committee, said Elliott “has done a great job of showing there is availability, events, and access via primary care, and providers are offering open access. We’re hoping it’s more of a communication issue, and our roadmap will be one way to help show how to do that.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christopher Van Tilburg said Hood River has had “almost the highest per capita testing in the state. When Trish and I talked in March of County Health or providers doing testing, our providers really stepped up. We are at a different point now,” Van Tilburg said. “As a county we are sitting in a great place with availability of testing everywhere.”

Commissioner Les Perkins noted that Hood River County’s testing numbers were not as high in the past month. Elliott said that around state, testing levels had dropped in late August and early September, particularly due to the smoky conditions, out of concerns for staff and client safety since the testing clinics are all performed in open air.

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