As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Columbia and Greene counties, officials are looking at the best ways to provide testing to residents.
Columbia County reported 102 active cases on Monday while Greene County reported 28 cases.
Greene County has been offering weekly testing clinics at the Greene County Office Building in Catskill since July, but is looking to hold a clinic on the mountaintop next month, Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said Monday.
“Right now they have one planned for Dec. 2 from 3-5 p.m. in Hunter,” Linger said, adding he did not know the exact location.
The weekly clinics will continue each Wednesday from 5:30-6:30 p.m. as Public Health re-evaluates, Linger said.
“The plan was to continue with Wednesdays, originally, but I guess there have been some complaints about people who had to drive in the dark now that it is dark at 5 p.m.,” Linger said. “So they are re-evaluating that. I’m not sure if any decision has been made countywide.”
Cairo resident Rose Lagatta, 95, wants to see more testing options available.
Lagatta has relatives in The Pines at Catskill Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation and Greene Meadows Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and needs to be tested once a week to visit them.
“It is an inconvenience,” she said. “I at least want to be with my family and be able to go see them.”
Lagatta has gone to the county’s weekly testing clinic but said she had to stand outside in the rain to wait.
Because Lagatta relies on others for transportation, other testing sites are less feasible, she said.
“They have to find more places to do this,” she said. “I don’t need this at my age. I should be relaxing and not worrying about this stuff. It’s not fair that I have to go crazy every week to try and go someplace. It should be easier.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not been focused on upstate communities such as Greene County, Lagatta said.
“He’s the one that wants the testing and he’s not following through on it up here,” she said. “In New York [City], you can go on any block and get a test. He doesn’t take care of us up here.”
In May and June the county had traveling clinics that visited Catskill, Coxsackie, Cairo, Greenville and Windham.
Inclement weather will be a factor heading into the winter months, Linger said.
“We can’t just put a tent up in the snow,” he said. “We have to have an indoor place for people to come in or a large parking lot where it will not impede businesses there.”
Elderly residents or individuals with limited transportation access should contact Public Health about the best place to be tested, Linger said.
“We’re not the only ones in the county that can test,” he said, adding that a different site might be more convenient.
Albany Med EmUrgentCare in Coxsackie is offering COVID-19 testing. Price Chopper offers testing at select locations, which do not include Catskill. The grocery store chain’s Chatham location has COVID-19 testing.
Greene County Public Health is also deciding the best way to use rapid tests provided by the state, Linger said.
Rapid tests take about 15 minutes and require special equipment to read them, Linger said.
“We were given four machines,” he said. “We can do about 16 tests an hour with those machines.”
Public Health will decide on implementing the rapid tests at routine clinics or to stockpile them for outbreaks, Linger said.
The county can send up to 50 tests to the state lab, Labcorp, before switching to Quest, which has a longer wait time, Linger said.
Columbia County has upcoming walk-up clinics Tuesday and Dec. 1 from 9-11 a.m. outside the former John L. Edwards Primary School.
Earlier this year, the county offered testing at Columbia-Greene Community College and the Chatham Fairgrounds.
“What I think we’re going to be doing is trying to be more consistent,” Columbia County Health Department Director Jack Mabb said Thursday, referring to testing clinics. “We go a couple of Tuesdays, then we miss a Tuesday. Part of the problem is just staffing.”
It can be a struggle to meet testing demands as cases increase, Mabb said.
“This thing has really exploded,” he said. “We have two things that are working against each other. So when the numbers explode, my staff gets extra busy, and we’re working well past four, well into evenings and on weekends, and at the same time more people want to get tested so those things kind of work against each other.”
WellNow Urgent Care, with locations in Hudson and Albany, is offering traditional COVID-19 testing and antibody testing.
For traditional COVID testing at SUNY Albany, call the state’s COVID-19 hotline 1-888-364-3065 to make an appointment for drive-thru testing.
Rite Aid is offering testing at its locations in Colonie and Kingston. CVS has testing services at two locations in Albany on New Scotland Avenue and Central Avenue, as well as in Kingston.
Walgreens has testing services in Albany and Troy.