Hundreds get free COVID testing

Dozens line up near the South Beach Marina on Wednesday for the second day of free COVID-19 testing conducted by Lincoln County Public Health, in partnership with the Oregon Health Authority and Medical Teams International. A tent was erected by a mobile testing unit west of Rogue Distillery on Wednesday. Medical Teams International, a Portland-based nonprofit, provided staffing for the first COVID-19 testing event in Lincoln County open to the general public, regardless of symptoms. (Photos by Kenneth Lipp)

LINCOLN COUNTY — More than 500 people received COVID-19 tests during the first two of four free testing events in Lincoln County this week.

According to Lincoln County Public Health, which this week offered the first local mass testing events open to the general public, 238 tests were completed Tuesday on a rainy afternoon in Waldport. Sunny skies graced Newport for the second day of testing from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, where 383 went through a line that started at a mobile testing unit and tent beside the mural on Rogue Distillery, for long periods stretching back two cars wide to Marine Science Drive at Southeast Ferry Slip.

The testing events, funded by the Oregon Health Authority and staffed by Portland nonprofit Medical Teams International, continued in Lincoln City Thursday afternoon, with a fourth scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday in Toledo. Tests are self-administered by recipients in the lower part of the nostril, and the samples are sent to Willamette Valley Toxicology in Corvallis, with results expected within seven days.

New cases in Lincoln County have remained low since mid September, and the health department hopes this opportunity to test anyone who wants it, regardless of symptoms or risk of exposure, will provide confidence that the current numbers aren’t too good to be true.

While new local cases have not exceeded three per day in recent weeks, and often the county does not make the daily report at all, statewide infections have skyrocketed. Thursday, Oregon exceeded 1,000 new cases for the first time, with a total of 1,122, about 15 percent higher than the previous record of 988 set on Saturday. 

During a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Kate Brown and officials from hospitals around the state warned that a strain on the health system was imminent if the current trend continues. Oregon Health Authority Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dana Hargunani said there’d been a 57 percent increase in the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients during the previous week and an 83 percent increase since Oct. 12.