For many weeks now, Buncombe County and clinical partner, Western North Carolina Community Health Services (WNCCHS) have tested over 850 people per week at the COVID-19 community testing sites.
The community testing sites are meant to serve residents of Buncombe County who meet criteria for testing and cannot access testing elsewhere. As we know with COVID-19, change is the only constant and we are continuously pivoting, expanding, and contracting our response accordingly.
A tremendous effort by many community partners has made testing possible thus far and we are grateful to those agencies who have stepped up to assist during the community testing events.
Support for the testing sites has come from WNCCHS, Buncombe Fire and Rescue, Asheville Fire and Rescue, Buncombe County Government, Western Carolina Medical Society, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, AB Tech, and MAHEC School Health. This has required intense logistical coordination, testing procurement and processing, lab capacity, major administrative needs, volunteer management, medical interpreters, and resources for testing notification and education.
Due to challenges with staffing and capacity, WNCCHS will no longer be the clinical partner for community testing sites, effective immediately. Additionally, with cases increasing and wait times for test results through the current lab vendor continuing to remain higher than the recommended 48 hour or less time frame, adjustments need to be made to community testing for a more sustainable and effective model to serve the residents of Buncombe County.
Moving forward, the county’s community testing efforts will be performed by Buncombe County Government. This means that the County will provide coordination and implementation of all community testing functions such as site logistics and safety, screening and registration, specimen collection, lab contracting, and notification of results.
Community testing sites in Buncombe County will be paused until these adjustments are made. The County anticipates that the updated model will be back on line early August. People who have been tested at previous community testing sites should refer to the guidance given to them at the site about how to receive their test results. More information on how to access these test results can be found here.
People who need COVID-19 testing can arrange for testing through most urgent cares, some pharmacies, or their primary care provider. Visit the Find My Testing Place website for testing options near you.
Community testing will be back on line as soon as possible.
“The County believes that testing is important and we are committed to making sure that everyone who needs testing in our communities has access to testing," said Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, Interim Buncombe County Public Health Director. "Pausing our testing while we pull in resources to staff, streamline and improve processes is what we must do at this moment. We have heard concerns that this is some sort of attempt on our part to keep numbers low, but it is not. In order to meet the needs of our communities more effectively, we have to take a brief step back and adjust our strategy. We intend to move towards a community testing model that is built on best practices and on the successes of other NC counties, who have also had to adjust and pivot to further refine their testing efforts.”
Dr. Mullendore continues, “This realignment of testing efforts will ensure that residents and people who work in Buncombe County will have access to COVID-19 testing if they need it and will ensure a more rapid test turnaround time. The move also aligns the resources needed to transition to mass vaccination once a vaccine for COVID becomes available.”
Please assess your need for testing if you think you might have COVID-19 or have been in close contact to someone with COVID-19, regardless of your symptoms. The Buncombe Ready COVID-19 Self Checker is one resource you can use. You may also contact your healthcare provider or visit https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/about-covid-19/testing/find-my-testing-place to find a testing location near you.