FAIRMONT — Marion County residents who wish to be tested for COVID-19 now have the option Monday through Friday from noon to 3 p.m. at a new testing center that will open Monday.

Testing is free of charge and open to anyone.

The testing facility, a small red shed in a parking lot located off Locust Avenue between the WVU Fairmont Medical Center and MVA Health Center, will provide drive-thru testing weekdays.

“It’s a little red building. You can’t miss it,” said Lloyd White, Marion County Department of Health administrator.

The testing center is a venture that combines the efforts of the Marion County Health Association, the Monongahela Valley Association Health Center, and Fairmont Medical Center.

“The Marion County Health Department will use the building on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the MVA Fairmont Clinic will use it Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays,” said White.

Signs will be posted to direct drivers into the lot, where vehicle occupants will be tested without ever leaving their automobiles.

White said with advancing inclement weather and the end of coronavirus nowhere in sight, a fixed drive-thru facility was essential to the county’s health care needs.

“The two primary COVID-19 testing facilities in our county are MVA and the health department,” he said. “But we had to ask ourselves: What are we going to do in the winter time when we can’t subject our employees to more harsh weather? So we came up with the idea that if we had a little building, we could utilize it in the winter.”

The health care entities approached WVU Medicine about using its parking lot and the organization agreed.

“WVU Medicine has been gracious to allow us to put the building here,” White said.

White said the facility will allow for easy, quick testing for anyone who wishes to get a COVID-19 test.

“It will be a drive-up. There will be directional arrows on the blacktop to guide drivers. If you follow those arrows, you’ll stop right in front of the building. You can stay in your car and you’ll be swabbed from your vehicle. You can then pull out and be on your way,” he said.

White said continued testing, now more than ever, is essential to combating the COVID pandemic.

“Testing has to continue. Having a location to do it that’s convenient and accessible is important. With the winter time coming, having a place to ensure our employees and staff are out of the elements was our goal and now we’ve accomplished that,” he said.

The health director said continued testing with rapid disclosure is key to combating COVID-19.

“We want to do more testing in order to give us a true indication of the infection rate within our community. So now, at any point in time somebody wants to be tested, they don’t have to wait two or three or four days for a testing event. They don’t have to go out of the county for a testing event. They can come right here,” White said.

White also praised the Marion County Health Department’s continued collaboration with MVA Health Center.

“We’ve been partnering with MVA since early spring, conducting community testing together. This facility allows us to expand our partnership and provide a valuable service to the citizens of Marion County and whoever else would want to come and take advantage of the free testing. It’s a really good partnership we can build on. After all, our goals are all the same. We all do our best and work together,” he said.

Susan Konya, MVA Health Center’s director of nursing, said her organization has provided health care for Marion County resdients for generations.

“MVA has been in existence since 1959. It was built by the UMWA. Our mission it to serve the underserved, so this is a great opportunity for people. It’s free for everybody,” she said. “We’ve been testing since March and continue to do so every day.”

Konya said the goal of the COVID-19 Testing Center is making coronavirus tests convenient for everyone.

“It’s the easy access and availability five days a week that makes it attractive. The more people we test, the greater chance we have of people quarantining. It’s very important,” Konya said. “As soon as we get a positive, we call and inform the patient. It’s a combined effort with Lloyd’s staff to make sure people quarantine.”

Cari Morgan, Fairmont Medical Center nursing director, said the hospital and WVU Medicine is concerned about the health of Fairmont and Marion County residents.

“We’re here to serve our community. And we’re happy to work in conjunction with the Marion County Health Department and MVA Clinic to support the community and the county,” Morgan said. “That is our purpose. That is our goal. And we’ll do whatever can to help the community.”

On Friday, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported 16 more West Virginia residents had died of the COVID-19 coronavirus, including a 79-year-old Marion County man. In Friday’s DHHR report, Marion County has recorded 667 total COVID-19 cases and six total deaths from the coronavirus.

Statewide, 639 residents have died of COVID-19 as of Friday, Nov. 20.

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