Free COVID-19 testing available as cases surge

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that testing events in Ottawa and Allegan counties have been canceled the week of Oct. 19 because health department staff are being reassigned to COVID-19 case investigations. 

A recent surge in COVID-19 cases has prompted the Allegan County Health Department to offer a series of free testing events to make it easier for residents to get tested.
This map provided by the state of Michigan shows COVID-19 cases by the county.
As concerns that Michigan may be entering a second wave of coronavirus cases, access to testing is considered essential to slowing the spread of the contagious respiratory disease, along with wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and washing hands.

In the past two weeks, cases have doubled in Allegan County, bringing the total confirmed cases to 991. While most people have recovered, there have been 51 hospitalizations and seven deaths, according to the county's COVID-19 dashboard. 

“About 1 in 5 Allegan County COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic, meaning they have no symptoms, yet they test positive,” says county Health Officer Angelique Joynes, MPH, RN. “If you’ve been out and about within the community — either going to work or attending social gatherings, it would be a good idea to get tested. This can help avoid unintentionally spreading the illness to someone you care about.”

Test date information

Testing will be offered 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 7 and 21, and Dec. 5 and 19, all Saturdays, at the Allegan County Transportation Building, 750 Airway Drive, Allegan.

The COVID-19 testing is available to individuals of any age, regardless of symptoms, although those younger than 18 will need parent or guardian consent. 

An interpreter will be available on-site. Allegan is also offering rides to those who need them. Allegan County Transportation is asking people to call 269-673-4229 before noon the day before testing to receive a free ride.

Severe weather could impact testing. Cancellation notices will be posted on the department’s Facebook page.

“In the past two weeks, 40% of Allegan County cases have an unknown source of infection, which leads us to believe it is community spread. We cannot let our guard down now,” Allegan County Medical Director Dr. Richard Tooker, MD said. “So mask up, wash your hands, practice social distancing, and stay home when feeling sick.”

Ottawa County data, tests

The Ottawa County Department of Public Health reported 49 new cases of the virus on Oct. 15, and no new deaths related to COVID-19. The county's total case count is now 4,187, with 3,122 recovered and 70 deaths, according to its COVID-19 dashboard.

The county is also offering a free testing event on Nov. 5, 3-7:30 p.m. at the Coopersville/Polkton Fire Department, 30 Conran St., Coopersville. More dates throughout the county are expected to be announced. Ottawa County’s popup testing locations are part of a partnership between the Michigan National Guard, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and local health departments to offer COVID-19 testing.

The county has also put together a list of area hospitals and pharmacies that are offering the tests, detailing their hours, and fees.

Testing is crucial to controlling the spread of the virus, according to Kristina Wieghmink, M.Ed., Ottawa County's Public Information Officer. 

"Our goal in public health is to identify where the virus is spreading so together, we can work with our community to box it in from further spread," Wieghmink says. 

Efficient contact tracing

The county is also implementing a new automated system for disease investigation to make case management and contact tracing more efficient. The system will enable a quicker response to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The Michigan National Guard is helping counties across Michigan with providing free COVID-19 testing.
When a positive case is reported to OCDPH from the Michigan Disease Surveillance System, the department will issue a text message to that case. 

Anyone testing positive between the ages of 18 and 70 will receive a text message asking them to fill out a confidential questionnaire to provide more information. All others will receive a phone call from the department.

The survey will collect information about demographics, symptoms, hospitalization, and close contacts. There is an option in the survey to ask for a phone call rather than provide additional information electronically.

Michigan's total confirmed case count is more than 156,000 with more than 7,300 deaths, according to the state's COVID-19 dashboard. There have been more than 4.5 million lab tests for the virus conducted in Michigan since the pandemic was declared as a state health emergency in March. 

Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, or shortness of breath, should seek testing as well as those working with the public, living in congregate living facilities, or have potentially been exposed. Find more information about testing availability at

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.