Alabama is not the only state woefully undertesting for the Corona Virus. Virtually every state is reporting significant shortfalls in their ability to obtain test kits. In a state of almost 5-million residents, there have been only 146,548 tests conducted as of today (Saturday). That is about half of the number recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. Yet our state ranks 22nd in the number of tests conducted, giving you an idea of how inadequate testing nationwide has been.

You cannot point a figure at Alabama or any other state for the dearth of testing. Testing efforts nationwide were initially slowed when the CDC failed in its attempt to develop a working test for the brand-new virus. The federal government then lifted restrictions, allowing health care companies to develop and distribute their own tests in early March. But it takes awhile to develop, test and distribute any medical procedure.

Alabama Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris is among the many healthcare voices pointing to how critical testing is to identify those who have contracted COVID-19. That can help stop the spread of the virus by immediately isolating them from healthy people. Dr. Harris also believes Alabama and other states must step-up its contact testing. That is where those people who have come into close contact with the infected person are identified and asked to “self” isolate for 14 days to cut down on retransmission of the virus.

Harvard University Researchers are advising states to conduct a minimum of 152 daily tests for every 100,000 people. Many want universal testing, but some medical experts believe that would not help because a healthy person testing negative on Friday could contract the virus on Monday.

Where testing has been sadly under accessible is in the rural counties of West Alabama.  ADPH is attempting to remedy that now that more test kits and quicker testing results are becoming available. Alabama Department of Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for West Alabama Tommy Dockery is happy about that, “We just want to get more testing out in the community. You know they are trying to do that nationwide. So, we want to have an opportunity for each of our rural counties especially, to be able to come.”

West Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-7th District) who represents those counties, released a statement about providing testing at no cost and regardless of health insurance coverage. She believes free testing will help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Testing is now available at several West Alabama County Health Departments. It is only available to those who meet a specific criterion.  Only those with symptoms of the virus, those who have underlying health problems or persons working in healthcare facilities may be tested. The tests at the county health department is by appointment only to call and set up an appointment ahead of time.

Below are the locations, times, and numbers to call for COVID-19 testing appointments at county health departments in West Alabama:

  • Bibb County Health Department (205 )926-9702 at 281 Alexander Avenue in Centreville, Tuesdays 8:30 am to 9:30 am.
  • Fayette County Health Department (205) 932-5260 at 215 1st Avenue in Fayette. Wednesdays 8:30 am to 9:30 am.
  • Greene County Health Department (205) 372-9361 at 412 Morrow Avenue in Eutaw, Mondays 8:30 am to 9:30 am.
  • Fayette County Health Department (205) 932-5260 at 215 1st Ave NW in Fayette, Wednesdays 8:30 am to 9:30 am.
  • Hale County Health Department (205) 624-3018 at 508 Greene Street in Greensboro, Mondays 8:30 am to 9:30 am.
  • Lamar County Public Health Department (205) 695-9195 at 300 Springfield Rd. in Vernon, Tuesdays 8:30 am to 9:30 am.
  • Marengo County Public Health Department (334) 295-4205 at 303 Industrial Drive in Linden, Thursdays 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
  • Perry County Health Department (334) 683-6153, 1748 South Washington St. in Marion, Mon 10: am –to Noon, Tues. 8:30 am to 9:30 am.
  • Pickens County Health Department (205) 367-8157 at 80 William E Hill Drive in Carrollton, Tuesdays 8:30am to 9:30 am.
  • Sumter County Health Department (205) 652-7972 at 1121 North Washington Street in Livingston, Fridays 8:30am to 9:30 am.
  • Tuscaloosa County Health Department (205) 562-6900 at 2350 Hargrove Road East, Fridays 8:30am to 9:30 am.
  • Walker County Health Department (205) 221-9775 at 705 20th East in Jasper, Thursdays 8:30 am to 9:30 am.

More testing obviously creates a need for larger numbers of test results.  Unfortunately, that has been a choke point in the testing process. ADPH is hoping to soon resolve the issue of getting test results back in a timelier manner. They are in the process of training more microbiologists to run tests at the state’s lab in Montgomery.

Dr. Harris points to importance of testing over the next week, It will take another week or so before we know if reopening the states economy has spiked an increase in COVID-19 cases”.

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