Albion becomes one of the first in the state to get neighborhood COVID-19 testing site

A COVID-19 Neighborhood Testing Site in the City of Albion began operating today (Sept. 4).

The site, located at Albion College-Washington Gardner Gymnasium, 401 E. Michigan Ave. will be open for testing on Mondays and Wednesdays from noon to 7 p.m. and on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
 
Albion Mayor Dave Atchison says he has been working since April with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office, the MDHHS, Albion College, and the Albion Health Care Alliance to get a testing site established in one of the city’s neighborhoods.

Mayor Dave AtchisonMany of the city’s residents don’t have access to personal transportation making it difficult for them to access other testing sites, Atchison says. So the city will be coordinating transportation with designated stops at housing complexes to transport residents to the Neighborhood Testing Site. The schedule for these stops is expected to be announced soon.

“Testing is very important to identify if we are having surges and what impact that has in Calhoun County, particularly in Albion,” Atchison says. “We don’t have a hospital. We have a great partner in Oaklawn Medical and we do have clinics and other services. Anything we can do to improve access to health care is a positive for the community.”

Atchison says about one-third of the city’s population is in the high-risk category for the virus. About 65 percent of residents are Caucasian and about 35 percent are African American, he says.

The on-demand tests will be done at no cost with a nasal swab and are available to anyone who wants one done. Results are expected to be available within 43 to 72 hours.
Atchison says the tests will be administered by state health department staff, which be supplying all of the necessary supplies.

Although there has been a lot of discussion about the availability of test kits the situation has improved since the early days of the pandemic. Environmental Public Health Director for Calhoun County Kevin Green says, “Test kits are becoming more and more available and the federal and state governments are working on different kinds of testing.”

Albion is one of 12 Neighborhood Testing Sites being launched this week by the MDHHS and the community organizations with which is it partnering,  such as churches, community colleges, and nonprofit organizations. The other sites are in Ecorse, Flint, Graying and Roseville. More sites are slated to open in the next few weeks in Benton Harbor, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Muskegon, Niles, Saginaw and Wayne, bringing the total number to about 20.

“These Neighborhood Testing Sites will provide more than a place to get a COVID test,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, says in a press release. “We know there are gaps in services in many communities in our state and these locations were chosen in an effort to address as many of these issues as possible.”  
  
Locations were chosen in part to help address racial and ethnic disparities that had existed prior to the pandemic and were exacerbated by the virus – a focus of the Racial Disparities Task Force, chaired by Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist, the press release says. 
 
“Expanding access to testing will help us protect ourselves, our families, and the brave men and women on the front lines of this crisis. That’s why we are working to remove as many barriers as possible to ensure COVID-19 testing is accessible for all Michiganders,” Whitmer says in the press release. “After looking closely at the data and working with community partners, we believe these sites will provide the greatest access to testing for Michiganders across the state. We appreciate the willingness of these community partners to open their doors for this very important effort.” 

Green says Calhoun County is, “continuously working with different entities and some of our private pharmacies to start testing. We’re expanding to make as many testing sites available as we can to make it easier for residents to get tested.”

Grace Health is among those entities. And this week, Hemmingsen Drug Store in downtown Marshall also began offering COVID-19 testing.

The Neighborhood Testing Sites will offer saliva tests, which are less invasive than nasal swabs and may make the testing process more tolerable for some people. 

Appointments are strongly encouraged and can be made either by calling the COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136 and selecting “1” or online. Walk-ins will be taken as space allows, but pre-registration is strongly advised. 
 
Online registration is available at Michigan.gov/CoronavirusTest. Both patients who book online in advance or walk-in to a testing site can use a mobile device to fill out their information including name, date of birth, and phone number.  

Test results can be obtained via phone, email, or by logging into the results portal.  
 
State officials say that information around this outbreak is changing rapidly and they are directing people to  Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus for the most up-to-date information.

Read more articles by Jane Simons.

Jane Simons is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 20 years of experience and also is the owner of In So Many Words based in Battle Creek. She is the Project Editor for On the Ground Battle Creek.
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