Free Covid-19 testing events for Jackson County residents

ASHLAND, Or.- Today in Ashland, people took advantage of the chance to get tested for coronavirus for free regardless of whether or not they have symptoms.

Dozens of cars were lined up for the first of two days of free testing in Jackson County. Though they were in line, most of the people weren’t worried about having Covid-19 at all.

“The more testing we do, the more information we have,” said Dr. Jim Shames.

Dr. Jim Shames and Jackson County Health and Human Services is hosting two testing events this week. The tests are free and open to anyone who wants to take them regardless of their symptoms.

While this gives residences some personal peace of mind, Dr. Shames says the testing has another purpose- collecting information for the state.

“What’s the background Covid rate in Ashland, what’s the background rate in Medford right now? Lets get a lot of people tested and find out if we have any surprises,” Dr. Shames said.

At ScienceWorks Museum Tuesday, dozens of cars lined up for drive through and walk-up swabbing. The line stretched back to the street. But most of the people said they didn’t think they had Covid.

“I’m just here to be safe. That’s all,” said Bill Retter.

Retter joined the long line of cars just after the start of the event at 2 p.m Tuesday afternoon. He recently got back from a long road trip and simply wants to be cautious.

“I don’t believe I have Covid-19. This was an easy way to check, so I am going to do that.”

For other people there, getting tested went beyond their own health.

“I work at a retirement place, so just to make sure I’m safe and the residents are safe,” Jerry Vargas said.

Vargas, like many others, said simply being able to drive through at no cost made getting tested easy. For medical officials, that’s exactly what they wanted.

“Gosh, a testing facility in my neighborhood, all I do is drive through and get tested? I’m hoping a number of people will take advantage,” Dr. Shames said.

Dr. Shames says the state also got brand new tests a few days ago that can give results in about fifteen minutes.

While these won’t be used at these free testing events yet, he says that the more fast and cheap testing they can offer, the better.

“We’ve never promoted asymptomatic people to get tested before. The state is the one that’s really monitoring the results of this.”

The next free testing event in Jackson County will be walk-up testing tomorrow.  Anyone interested can visit Medford Cornerstone Church from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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Grace Smith is co-anchor for NBC5 News at 6. The Chicago native is a recent graduate of University of Miami with a Communication Honors degree specializing in Broadcast Journalism. She minored in Creative Writing and focused her senior thesis on social media usage and engagement. During her time at the University of Miami, she anchored multiple award-winning student television programs, covering everything from music festivals to the Super Bowl. Though she loved Miami's beaches, she's thrilled to be in the Pacific Northwest where she can experience all four seasons and have a real Christmas tree! When she’s not at work, you can find Grace glued to any television showing live sports (especially if it's the Chicago Bears) or attempting a new recipe as she learns to cook.
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