VDH strongly recommends COVID-19 testing as Delta variant surges

COVID testing
Posted at 4:21 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-16 18:38:22-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – Two weeks ago, John Roulhac Norfolk said he woke up with COVID-like symptoms.

“That morning, I coughed all night long,” Roulhac said. “I coughed; I coughed; I coughed. I said, 'Something ain’t right.'”

He immediately went to his doctor to get tested for the virus and felt relieved after results came back negative.

“I’m happy,” he said. “COVID-19 ain’t nothing to play with.”

The now prevalent and more contagious Delta variant that’s fueling cases around the state is prompting Virginia Department of Health officials to sound the alarm. They’re strongly recommending people with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested, regardless of vaccination status.

VDH Public Health Physician Specialist Dr. Brooke Rossheim said something as simple as a sore throat could possibly be COVID-19.

“It doesn’t matter the severity,” he said. “It could be a mild runny nose; it could be a terrible runny nose. It could be a mild headache; it could be a terrible headache. It could be a mild cough; it could be a terrible cough. COVID is so prevalent out there now that you can't just dismiss that one symptom.”

Not everyone, however, agrees.

“Everybody's making a big ordeal of it, I think, anyway,” said Holly Allen of Norfolk.

Norfolk resident Ruth Gray said she’s fully vaccinated and takes extra precautions such as wearing a mask to protect herself and others. The current VDH recommendation, however, came as a shock to her.

“It's surprising and probably a little unnecessary,” she said. "A lot of people have allergies. It’s flu season.”

Dr. Rossheim argues that with about 40% of people showing no symptoms at all, testing is key to slowing the spread.

With about 28,000 tests done a day statewide, Rossheim said testing is steadily going up. That number is nowhere near the roughly 50,000-60,000 daily tests that were done from November to January, just before the vaccines came out.

“Testing is really important because it's the eyes and ears of how we see how the pandemic is doing,” he said.

Some local pharmacies told News 3 they’ve seen an uptick in the number of people buying at-home test kits over the past week. Several drug stores said they’re now sold out.

Joel Christiansen of Norfolk understands the urgency as worries about the weeks ahead.

“It's nowhere even near done from what I'm hearing,” Christiansen said. “Just wait until the fall.”

Basic tests can’t determine what COVID strain a person has. Only labs like Quest, or a state public health lab can determine what COVID variant a person might have.

Related: Virginia to provide 3rd dose of Pfizer, Moderna vaccines for immunocompromised people as early as Aug. 14

In the meantime, health officials said fully vaccinated people should be tested 3-5 days following a known exposure to the virus. That recommendation has been made because of the Delta variant.

For a list of testing sites, click here.

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