CATSKILL — Greene County holds its first public testing clinic Saturday at Catskill Middle School after months of testing-supply shortages that hampered public officials’ ability to trace the spread of COVID-19.
A total of 150 pre-registered Greene County residents will be tested for the virus, with priority given to symptomatic people and people who work in essential services. Catskill Middle School on West Main Street will host the drive-thru clinic from 9 a.m. to noon.
The Greene County Public Health Department partnered with the Greene County Office of Emergency Management to offer the COVID-19 testing, which officials say will be the first in a series of clinics.
The next opportunity for Greene County residents to be tested will be in Coxsackie in the coming weeks, Office of Emergency Management officials confirmed.
The testing clinic will be combined with a mobile food pantry for Greene County residents who require food assistance.
Community Action of Greene County will be handing out supplies in the parking area across the street from Catskill Middle School.
This is the second public testing clinic held in the Twin Counties since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Columbia County Department of Health tested 80 people at a clinic at Columbia-Greene Community College on May 8.
Both Greene and Columbia County residents were tested at the C-GCC clinic, said Columbia County Public Health Director Jack Mabb. The two counties are working together closely to coordinate their COVID-19 response efforts.
Greene County received 1,080 testing kits from the state Monday, which the county can use at its discretion, officials said.
The county also ordered 700 commercial testing kits from Thermo Fisher Scientific last month. Only a small percentage of those kits has arrived, according to Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore.
With testing capabilities statewide limited by supply-chain shortages, public health officials in both Greene and Columbia counties have had to prioritize testing for people in nursing homes.
Forty-seven people in Greene County nursing homes are battling COVID-19, which accounts for nearly 70% of all active cases in the county, according to the Greene County website, which began releasing nursing-home data last week.
Testing in nursing homes has been a countywide priority since the beginning, but testing kits have only become available in “dribs and drabs,” said Penny Martinez, a senior public health educator in Greene County.
The largest COVID-19 outbreak in Greene County is at The Pines at Catskill Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation.
Columbia County officials have focused their testing efforts on nursing homes. A total of 121 residents of The Grand Rehabilitation and Nursing at Barnwell in Valatie tested positive for COVID-19 after state officials conducted a full testing on all residents and staff.
Columbia County set aside testing kits for nursing homes and adult-care facilities from the beginning, but administrators had to request those supplies, said Robert Lagonia, chairman of the Columbia County Board Supervisors’ Health and Human Services Committee.
Ghent Assisted Living, formerly known as the Whittier, offered testing to all 80 of its residents Thursday, Administrator Meghan Kelley said on Friday.
“The residents have the choice whether or not they want to be tested,” Kelley said. “Only those residents who have chosen to be tested will be.”
Kelley requested 20 kits from the Columbia County Health Department to conduct testing on the residents who requested it. Included in the order for 20 testing kits are extra supplies for residents who change their mind and later choose to undergo testing, she said.
Ghent Assisted Living is different from a nursing home and does not have a medical director to provide the doctor’s order for testing. Residents’ individual physicians must sign off on the testing, Kelley said.
“Prior to me reaching out to DOH yesterday, I was not offered tests, nor was I approached by residents or family members asking for testing,” Kelley said. “When we offered it, many did not want to be tested. All residents were informed they could change their mind and have testing at a later time.”
Three Ghent Assisted Living residents were tested for COVID-19 while receiving treatment for other conditions at Columbia Memorial Hospital, Kelley said. Those individuals, who were asymptomatic, tested negative for the virus.
Nora Mishanec is a reporter for Columbia-Greene Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-828-1616 ext. 2500.