Surge in COVID cases, holiday gatherings lead to crowds at Salem testing site

Coronavirus

SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — The Salem Civic Center has been offering free, drive-thru coronavirus testing on a weekly basis since mid-December. Amid the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and the rising number of people wanting to be tested for the virus during the holiday season, these testing services in Salem will continue through January.

Two weeks ago, there were only a handful of people taking advantage of the drive-thru virus testing at the Salem Civic Center. Last week, that number increased to 25.

Then, on Tuesday, Dec. 28, the civic center’s parking lot was filled with hundreds of cars. In fact, nurses say they ended up turning people away after administering more than 200 COVID-19 tests that afternoon.

However, Roanoke Valley health officials will host another testing site at the Salem Civic Center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 30 to make up for running low on tests Tuesday.

Cars lined up at the Salem Civic Center on Dec. 28, 2021 during a drive-thru COVID-19 testing event organized by the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts. (Photo: Amanda Lee/WFXR News)

Many community members say holiday gatherings with family and friends is what brought them to the Salem testing site.

“It was difficult to get a test before Christmas. I couldn’t find it,” one attendee said. “My daughter called around trying to find a place since I had some mild symptoms. We had family from out of town that we couldn’t be with because we weren’t sure if I was COVID-free.”

Plenty of people say they had a difficult time finding a testing site or even getting a coronavirus test before the holiday season, so they didn’t mind waiting for hours in a long line to get tested.

Cars lined up at the Salem Civic Center on Dec. 28, 2021 during a drive-thru COVID-19 testing event organized by the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts. (Photo: Amanda Lee/WFXR News)

“They just don’t want to spread COVID. That’s the biggest fear,” Nurse Machalle Scleuss explained. “The other thing is being around family and friends during the holidays. They want to make sure they don’t have it and they don’t spread it to anyone else.”

Schleuss was one of the extra nurses called in to help with the large crowd expected at the civic center. She says she drove in from West Virginia on Tuesday morning.

Cars lined up at the Salem Civic Center on Dec. 28, 2021 during a drive-thru COVID-19 testing event organized by the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts. (Photo: Amanda Lee/WFXR News)

“It’s great, we’re doing good, we’re getting through really quick and everyone is very appreciative. Everyone rolling through is telling us ‘thank you.’ It’s been a good day,” said Schleuss.

For those who are interested in being tested for COVID-19, the Salem Civic Center is set to provide drive-thru PCR testing from 3 to 5 p.m. each Tuesday from now through Jan. 25, 2022, no appointments necessary. The test results will then be returned within 24 to 36 hours, according to the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts’ website.

You can also pick up free, at-home, rapid test kits from the Craig County Public Library. Meanwhile, Roanoke Public Libraries, Botetourt County Libraries, and the Salem Public Library are currently out of tests, but the Salem library expects to receive a new supply the first week of January.

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