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Weekly COVID-19 update: State to open new community testing centers as cases continue to climb

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Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday the Virginia Department of Health will spend $5 million to open nine new community testing centers to increase COVID-19 testing availability in the state.

The testing centers will be near or on the same property as community vaccination centers, one of which is located in the former Sears store at Valley View Mall in Roanoke.

The centers will administer PCR tests and will text or email the results to individuals. The state expects the nine centers will administer 50,000 tests in January.

Virginia is working to increase its testing capacity as a surge in demand reflects skyrocketing COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. A testing event Tuesday in Salem drew hundreds of people and the local health department eventually ran out of the 400 tests it had on hand to administer.

Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts director Cynthia Morrow said 35% of the tests administered at the event came back positive.

The health department will operate free drive-thru testing events every Tuesday at the Salem Civic Center through January. This Tuesday’s event will be from 9 a.m. to noon.

Virginia reported 102,518 new COVID-19 infections over the past week, bringing the cumulative total during the pandemic to 1,221,036, the Virginia Department of Health reported Friday.

The state reported 2,194 more hospitalizations over the past seven days, increasing the total number of people hospitalized during the pandemic to 44,056, although the VDH website notes that hospitalizations are underrepresented.

Virginia’s near southwest region, which includes hospitals from Lynchburg to the Roanoke Valley, had 404 COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Friday, including 104 in intensive care. Last Friday, there had been 348 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the region, including 101 in ICUs.

Statewide, COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a one-day record of 3,329 on Friday, according to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association.

Virginia reported 64 new virus-related deaths over the past seven days, for a total of 15,651 since the start of the pandemic.

As of Friday, 78.3% of Virginia’s adult population had been fully vaccinated.

Morrow said vaccination is still the best defense against infection, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

Everyone aged 5 or older has been approved to receive a vaccine, which are available at the community vaccination center in the former Sears store at Valley View Mall, located at 4812 Valley View Blvd. People can make appointments at vaccinate.virgina.gov or by calling 877-829-4682. Walk-ins are also open for adults and children.

The Roanoke Times contributed to this report.

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