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First asymptomatic testing site in Sparks packed

By Lucia Starbuck

Cars spilled out of Reed High School’s parking lot early Tuesday morning, full of people there to get tested for COVID-19. 

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Nevada Medicaid put together the one-day, free COVID-19 drive-through testing site in Sparks for individuals who are not experiencing symptoms. WellCare conducted the testing and had 500 tests on hand, and 1,000 more at the clinic, according to the Director of Quality Assurance and Compliance Alexis Lyon-Claus. 

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., 341 individuals got tested for COVID-19 at the event and can expect to receive their results in three to five days.

The site opened at 8 a.m., but cars were in the parking lot before 6 a.m., according to Anthem’s Community Outreach Representative Angie Anavisca-Valles. She said this is the first community-based COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic individuals done in Sparks.

Individuals can be infected by COVID-19 and not show any symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Angie Anavisca Valles, of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Image: Lucia Starbuck
Angie Anavisca-Valles, of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Image: Lucia Starbuck

“The response I’m getting from people is they just don’t know, and they’re finding out that because people can have it and not know about it, they’re like, ‘Well, why not? If it’s available, why not go find out?’ What I’m finding from a lot of people as well, is there are other testing sites, but they don’t know about them,” Anavisca-Valles said.

There are other drive-through testing sites in Washoe County. The Washoe County Health District operates a drive-through testing site at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center. The site performed asymptomatic testing in early June, but on June 17, Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick said the district will suspend testing for asymptomatic individuals because of a backlog in processing at the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory.

The state lab completely cleared the backlog as of June 22, according to Tessa Bowen, the Communications Manager for the University of Nevada, Reno, School of Medicine. 

Additionally, at the test site at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center and the one at Reed High School, participants are required to pull up in their cars. They cannot be on foot.

“That is something that we’ve contemplated because it’s our first time doing this. This is completely new to us,” Anavisca-Valles said. “We decided that we’re going to try this, see how it goes, find out where the needs and the gaps are, and if we find that there’s people who really do need the test, that aren’t getting [it], that want to walk up, then we’ll see if we can do something like that.”

The Northern Nevada Food Bank Mobile Harvest sets up drive-through operations every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon, and set up tents again during the event for anyone being tested or not. 

The mobile harvest usually provides food for 300 to 500 families at this site but expected to supply food to 500 to 600 families from the drivers there for testing, according to its Coordinator, Marisol Martinez.

“We see people struggling to get access to fresh produce,” Martinez said. “I mean, prices are rising, so that’s where we come in. We try and just fill in that gap to bring nutritious foods. Today, for example, we have milk, potatoes, apples, oranges. We try to bring a variety. Oftentimes, we’ve been bringing some type of protein, whether it be chicken, pork. We try to make it a complete meal.”

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