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Harrisonburg Conducts Free COVID-19 Testing In Select Neighborhoods

Randi B. Hagi

The city of Harrisonburg, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health and Sentara RMH, set up two mobile testing sites on Saturday afternoon to offer free COVID-19 tests to residents of the Northeast and Mosby Court neighborhoods, which were selected to increase testing access in diverse areas. WMRA’s Randi B. Hagi reports.

Credit Randi B. Hagi
Lyndsay Keck of Sentara RMH

[Sound of nurses talking]

On the lawn outside of the Lucy Simms Continuing Education Center on Saturday morning, nurses from RMH swabbed the noses of local residents inside a big inflatable tent. Lyndsay Keck, a practice management coordinator at Sentara, stood outside with a clipboard, screening the incoming clients.

LYNDSAY KECK: We have it set up for being able to test two patients at a time, and we have 50 tests that are free … We have some information that they fill out on a sheet so that they can be contacted with the results, and then the test is very similar to a flu test.

Credit Randi B. Hagi
Interpreter Joel Luna

There were 50 tests available at each of the two testing locations. Patients were told to expect their test results back within a week. By 11 a.m. in the Northeast neighborhood, they’d gone through –

JOEL LUNA: 17 total, and I have interpreted for, I would say, nine of them.

Joel Luna is a Spanish-language interpreter for the city. He said everyone who had come to get tested so far was surprisingly calm.

LUNA: They’re not scared at all, and they seem to be really pleased with the process … I’m glad that we’re doing this. Whomever came up with this idea, they hit a home run.

Credit Randi B. Hagi
Resident Julia Bundy got tested.

Local resident Julia Bundy hasn’t experienced symptoms of the virus, and has been following health officials’ recommendations, but she came to get tested just to know for sure.

JULIA BUNDY: It stings a little bit but it’s well worth it, you know. It’s just a quick little sting and it’s over … We need to work together, and it’s an opportunity to find out what’s going on. You think you're doing the right thing but you don’t always know. So yes, this is really good; I’m glad that they came here to do it.

Mayor Deanna Reed, who grew up in the Northeast neighborhood, was also there on Saturday.

Credit Randi B. Hagi
Mayor Deanna Reed hopes the city can continue offering free testing sites.

DEANNA REED: I’m glad that we were able to bring this to the Northeast … there’s some people who may feel uncomfortable about going to the actual hospital, who may not be able to afford to go to the hospital.

She hopes the city will continue setting up free testing clinics going forward.

REED: I’m hoping that this is actually the first round, that we will have another opportunity to bring more testing to Harrisonburg … in order for us to keep the city healthy, we need to know how many true positive cases there are here.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.