City hosts first walk-in tests

Nora Mishanec/Columbia-Greene MediaThe Columbia County Department of Health hosted a walk-up COVID-19 testing clinic in front of John L. Edwards school on Wednesday, May 27.

HUDSON — Health care workers swabbing patients may have been perspiring under their protective gear, but the spring heat didn’t prevent more than 30 people from visiting Columbia County’s first walk-up testing clinic on Wednesday.

The Columbia County Department of Health carried out COVID-19 diagnostic testing on 34 people under the awning of the former John L. Edwards School in Hudson from 10 a.m. to noon.

Fifty tests were made available to the public Wednesday, but the clinic did not reach capacity.

The clinic marked the second opportunity for members of the public to be tested, and the first time walk-ins were considered eligible. Columbia County performed tests on pre-registered people at Columbia-Greene Community College on May 8.

Online registration was recommended but not required for Wednesday’s clinic to make testing available to those without computer or internet access, said Ed Coons, director of environmental health for the Columbia County Department of Health.

“We wanted to make it as easy as possible to get tested,” said Coons, who directed people to the entrance from a shady spot in the John L. Edwards parking lot.

Many of the 34 people tested showed asymptomatic for COVID-19, a demographic that officials hope to include in the testing pool to gain a more accurate picture of how widespread the virus is in Columbia County.

Community members being tested were checked in and then directed to the school’s entrance by volunteers and health department staff members.

Maria Ostrander and Greg Fox, both deputy EMS coordinators for Columbia County, performed the diagnostic testing.

“We saw adolescents all the way to elderly people, the whole spectrum,” Ostrander said, adding that most people were a little apprehensive about receiving the nasopharyngeal swab.

Ostrander and Fox, who both volunteered at the COVID-19 testing clinic at Columbia-Greene, said community members have been grateful to receive testing. Fox said testing is vital for tracking the virus.

“We need to test more people. It keeps us all safe,” he said.

The testing kits used at the clinic were purchased using donated funds, according to the county Health Department website.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Greene and Columbia county officials have struggled to obtain testing kits from the state, which prioritized supplies by regional rates of infection. But without widespread testing, officials said they were hamstrung in their efforts to obtain an accurate regional picture of the pandemic.

Columbia County officials purchased 2,000 testing kits from Thermo Fisher Scientific, a private company that was granted Food and Drug Administration emergency authorization in April to produce millions of testing kits. Before receiving the Thermo Fisher kits, Columbia County received 200 testing kits from the state, officials said.

The county Health Department received a shipment of 1,080 testing kits from the state on May 13. The kits were distributed to nursing homes for staff and resident testing, according to Columbia County Public Health Director Jack Mabb.

Seven percent of Columbia County residents have been tested for COVID-19. The majority of those tests were performed in Albany and Ulster counties, officials said.

The next clinic will be held at John L. Edwards on June 2. Registration is available on the Columbia County Health website.

John L. Edwards, formerly an elementary school in the Hudson City School District, was closed permanently at the end of the 2018 school year.

City and county officials have expressed interest in the Edwards building as a new home for their municipal offices.

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