By Lyra Bordelon
After an outbreak of coronavirus at Graystone Baptist Church in Ronceverte, free testing for COVID-19 was expanded for two additional days in Greenbrier County.
“We’ve had 28 total [new] cases … since last Thursday, which all seem to be associated with the outbreak,” said Dr. Bridgett Morrison of the Greenbrier County Health Department on Monday, June 15. “Once we were told of the first positive, [we] started doing contact tracing and getting the church’s roster and encouraging testing.”
Of the 28 cases, Morrison explained, only one has been serious enough to require hospitalization. This case is not being treated locally in Greenbrier Valley.
“We have a little bit of everything,” Morrison explained. “We have some that are completely asymptotic. We have quite a few of them that have mild to moderate symptoms. There is one that is hospitalized. … We’ve been very blessed with this outbreak so far, but obviously we’re still in it, so we have to continue to watch and monitor community spread.”
The new local cases have been found through contact tracing and the testing offered in Dorie Miller Park – since last Friday, a free testing site has been available to anyone who needs it. Although the testing was originally scheduled for only Friday and Saturday, it was expanded by Governor Jim Justice as the Graystone outbreak numbers continued to increase. On Monday, 301 people were tested.
“We want the people who need to be tested especially to actually come through, and if they’ve had any chance of interaction with anybody from the church or anybody else from any communities that have been affected,” said Theresa White, Regional Liaison for the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security. “Anybody that has been tested is told to go home and self-quarantine until you get your results … because even if you are a negative, you’ve just protected so many people by not knowing in between [getting tested and getting the results].”
Those getting tested were asked to provide their basic and contact information before driving through to the testing site and putting their car in park. The actual test entails having a swab inserted into the nose, taking a sample from the nasal cavity.
Putting the car in park was a particularly emphasized step by National Guard members taking the samples. “There’s a few that haven’t done that,” White said. “[The test] is a little bit of a jolt – it’s not painful, but it’s definitely not something you’re used to everyday. It either makes you push harder on the gas or let go of the [stop], one of the two, but just for safety, even when they’re taking your information, they ask you to put it in park, since they’re so close to your car.”
Results are expected by Tuesday, June 16 for those who were tested Sunday and Monday.
“We already have all of Friday and Saturday’s results back, Sunday’s and today’s results should [come] back this evening or tomorrow,” Morrison said. Graystone Baptist Church and the Health Department have been working to get in touch with everyone that could have been exposed during services.
“We have tried to get a hold of some people but we don’t have appropriate numbers, so if there’s anybody that has not been contacted but was there in service, it’s because we do not have their contact information,” Morrison said. “There are some situations where phone numbers have changed or been disconnected, so yes, there are a few people we have not been able to get a hold of.”
If you think you’ve been exposed, call the Greenbrier County Health Department at 304-645-1787.
The church posted to social media, hoping to get members to get testing. “Our hearts are heavy during this time,” the post reads. “The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused many rumors and misunderstandings to be said. We adhered to the state and local governments concerning the reconvening of our church. We greatly encouraged anyone who was feeling ill to remain home. Attending church was on a voluntary basis. We greatly encouraged those to wear masks and gloves if they felt more comfortable. Our church ushers were helping with proper seating arrangements as given to us by Governor Jim Justice. Our services did not include any time of fellowship. We had gloves and masks available for everyone to use if they so desired. We exemplified social distancing within the church walls. We made aware and made use of hand sanitizing stations and Antibacterial sprays. We do not understand the source of the outbreak. To the best of our ability we followed the guidelines that were given to us. We want everyone to understand our church respects, obeys, and prays for our government. We love our brothers and sisters and would in no way put anyone in harm intentionally. We want to thank our governor, Jim Justice, and the Department of Health for their help in all this with the decontamination of our facility. If anyone has any questions please leave us message and will be happy to connect with you.”