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Ohio National Guard administered free coronavirus tests

The guard will be back on Nov. 11 to provide more testing

Photo by Janelle Patterson The Ohio National Guard administered free nasopharyngeal coronavirus tests in the parking lot of the Marietta College Physician Assistant building at the corner of Third and Butler streets Wednesday. The guard will be back on Nov. 11 between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. offering free community testing again in the same location.

Free coronavirus testing administered by the Ohio National Guard offered Marietta College the opportunity to host public drive-thru and walk-up testing at the corner of Third and Butler streets Wednesday.

The guard has been administering tests weekly for students and staff to voluntarily get tested inside the Dyson Baudo Recreation Center, but this week was the first time the college not only opened up the free option to community members but also held testing outdoors.

“That was always in the plan with the guard and they’ll be back offering the free test for the public in two weeks,” said Vice President for Strategic Communication Tom Perry.

The campus has seen an uptick in college-adjacent and student cases coinciding with Ohio’s surge in numbers over the past two weeks.

As of Wednesday, the college reported that 39 of its identified cases were active and 136 were quarantined.

Perry explained that quarantining students is part of state guidelines to mitigate spread of the virus and that friend groups, through contact tracing, were noted as close contacts in the most recent spikes.

“But we’re thinking we’ve hit the peak of this, we can’t be sure, but instruction is still going and our staff were prepared for that and ready to switch to remote as needed,” he said.

The tests taken Wednesday were logged into the Mako lab provider system via tablets held by college staff and specimens collected by the Ohio National Guard are then to be mailed to a laboratory in North Carolina.

Nurse Beth Casto, with the college, said community members would receive their test results within 24-28 hours and can text or log-in to the lab website to look up results.

“That way you’re not waiting for a phone call,” said Casto.

For MC senior Stephen Harris, 22, of Pittsburgh, the nasopharyngeal test made his eyes water as he sat in the drivers’ seat of his car.

“But it’s not too bad,” he said. “Tickles, really.”

Tuesday, Marietta-Belpre Health Commissioner Anne Goon issued a call-to-action to community leaders to set the example and prevent major spikes in cases that could overwhelm local health care providers.

“While many community members thought COVID-19 wouldn’t really touch us here in southeast Ohio, it certainly has. We’ve seen exponential growth in the number of new cases in the past three weeks — going from 277 on Oct 6 to 391 on Oct 27,” Goon said, but also noted that the newest cases are reporting greater numbers of contact than early on in the pandemic fight.

“Many of our newer cases report 12 or more close contacts each,” she said. “We’re fortunate that only 24 local residents have died, but that’s still 24 too many.”

Her all-call was addressed to a lengthy list of public figures, including elected officials like both mayors for Marietta and Belpre and academic administrators at the primary, secondary and collegiate levels.

“Some sectors in our county have worked very diligently to reduce the spread, including our K-12 and college administrators,” she wrote. “Others have done very little or have actively ignored public health measures that are known to slow the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19.”

That passivity, she wrote, has led to Washington County’s designation as “high incidence” by state metrics.

“Local residents are listening to and watching you,” she concluded. “Local lives and our local economy will be impacted by what we each choose to do (or not do) to reverse the spread of COVID-19 in Washington County. What will you do?”

Children are also quarantined after the Marietta YMCA was shut down Wednesday due to a before-school care exposure.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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