Volunteers draped in medical garments were prepped and ready to go at noon Wednesday outside Baker High School as residents lined up in their vehicles to get a free COVID-19 test.
The event, which ran from noon to 5 p.m., was the second in Baker City.
During the first free testing clinic, on Dec. 16, 130 people were tested. Two of those were positive for COVID-19. The total of tests given Wednesday wasn’t available by press time.
Evelynn Spivey, 68, of Baker City, said her main motivation to get tested was to rule out the possibility that she’s carrying the virus.
“The assurance of not being COVID positive, and being safe for myself and my family and extended members,” Spivey said.
Baker City resident Celinda Linscott, who works at a health care facility, also said she was looking for reassurance.
“I just want to make sure that I don’t have it. I have been around a lot of people and it’s just a preventative mostly,” Linscott, 41, said.
She said she was impressed with how she was able to get through the entire process with ease.
“It was super easy, quick and not an issue at all,” Linscott said.
Though Spivey shares similar sentiment as far as the process, she believes improvements could be made on describing the testing location.
“Several folks were a bit confused on where to go,” Spivey said.
Jason Yencopal, Baker County’s emergency management director, said another free testing clinic is scheduled for Jan. 20, also from noon to 5 p.m. in the same parking lot at the northwest corner of the BHS campus.
Yencopal said people who want to be tested that day should access the parking lot from G Street, north of the school, rather than from E Street.
Spivey said she was grateful for this opportunity, and for all of the people who have worked in providing these services to the community.
“We are so appreciative within the community for their reaching out to provide this service, that’s incredible,” Spivey said.
Michelle Owen, who is Baker City’s public works director, said she decided to be tested although she has no symptoms.
“I feel it’s important that, maybe I’m asymptomatic, if there’s a chance that I would give it to somebody I would want to know,” Owen said.
Owen and Linscott both said they were motivated to get tested for a reason other than finding out whether they’re infected.
They also hope to contribute to reducing Baker County’s test positivity rate, which is one statistic — the other is the number of COVID-19 cases — that determines the county’s risk level and resulting business restrictions.
Nancy Staten, director of the Baker County Health Department, and Mark Bennett, Baker County commissioner, both said this week that the Dec. 16 clinic, with its positivity rate of 1.5%, helped push the county’s overall rate below 10%, making it possible for the county to drop from the extreme-risk level to the high-risk level Jan. 1.
“I think the more negative cases we show, the more we can get back to normal,” Linscott said.
“This is an opportunity for two things — to help our community and bring those numbers down so we can get back to work and do what we need to do to get things opened up,” she said.
Staten pointed out that unlike the testing clinics, which are open to everyone, whether or not they have symptoms, most other people in the county who are tested do have symptoms and are much more likely to be infected.
When the county mainly tests people who have symptoms, its positivity rate will be higher, Staten said, than if testing is more widespread and includes people who have no symptoms.
Results from Wednesday’s clinic likely won’t have much, if any, effect on the county’s positivity rate for the two-week period ending Jan. 9, which will determine the county’s risk level for Jan. 15-28. That’s because test results will take three to five days.
To register for the Jan. 20 clinic — pre-registration is recommended but not required — go to www.doineedacovid19test.com
Free testing clinics are scheduled for Jan. 13 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Lions Park in Huntington, and on Jan 27 in Halfway from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at a location yet to be determined, Yencopal said.