COVID-19 testing site at UNCW sees rush before Thanksgiving holiday

NHC offers free COVID testing at UNCW, site crowded ahead of Thanksgiving

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover County continues to offer free coronavirus testing on UNCW’s campus for anyone who wants to be tested.

Even though the site has been open for about a month, things have picked up a lot in the last week. Health experts attribute that rush to being rained out recently, and to people wanting to know their status before traveling for Thanksgiving.

The main reason they set it up on campus was to make it accessible for college students to get results before they headed home for the semester, but the free testing is open to the public.

Health experts are encouraged by the impressive turnout, but also say testing isn’t necessarily everything. It’s what you do after you take the test that can really make a difference.

“Conceivably, you could get tested today, get your results in a couple days and potentially expose yourself 10 times between now and two days from now if you’re not using the preventative measures, if you’re going to stores and not masking, if you’re touching a lot of surfaces and touching your face...not washing your hands very often. All of those things, even though they’re very simple, they’re very basic, but they work,” said assistant health director David Howard.

Most visitors at the UNCW test site don’t have symptoms. The purpose is aimed more toward giving people an idea of whether or not they’ve been exposed.

Despite having a swab inserted far into their sinuses, patients still say it’s worth it.

“It’s very easy to do; you get peace of mind from it...you may as well do it,” said drive-thru testing participant Kathy Tompkins.

The importance of testing is not lost on everyone who showed up at the site, some of whom were turned away because they didn’t have an appointment. Monday night, experts announced the test site was completely booked and wouldn’t be accepting any more patients. Last Friday, the county was in the same boat.

“We only have a certain number of people we can put through the site on any given day, given the amount of people we have testing and given the amount of test kits we have to use,” said Howard.

Workers have seen as many as 450 tests a day since it started last month, a sign people are taking the rising case numbers around the state seriously.

“Hopefully, everyone is matching their interest in testing with their interest in wearing a mask, keeping a distance, staying home, and using all those preventative measures,” said Howard.

The site will reopen on Tuesday, December 1 for more free testing. To register ahead of time, visit the vendor’s website here. If you need a COVID-19 test, you can find testing resources by calling the New Hanover County Coronavirus Call Center at 910-798-6800 or by visiting covid.NCDHHS.gov. Enter your address to find the closest testing site.

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