Gray to state: we need COVID testing help

Published: Oct. 14, 2021 at 5:09 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - The chairman of the Jefferson County legislature said Thursday he’s asked state officials to set up a temporary COVID testing site in Jefferson County.

“I’ve asked the state if they could come in temporarily and just take the back pressure off and set up a testing operation that would be, perhaps, a week or two,” Scott Gray told 7 News.

Gray’s request to the state comes as northern New York endures a spike in COVID-19 cases and high demand for testing.

At Watertown Urgent Care on Coffeen Street, they continue to see 120 to 140 COVID-related patients a day, people who either show symptoms of the illness or simply need a test.

“It’s starting to cause a lot of stress on folks, not only us, but health care as a whole. So, you know, the more that can get involved, the better,” said Mark Knowles, from Watertown Urgent Care.

It appears, based on what health professionals and patients have told 7 News this week, that the demand for testing is causing longer wait times and other issues. If someone can’t get a test at an urgent care quickly, they may go to a hospital emergency room. If enough people go to the emergency room, that strains the ability of the emergency room to treat other, non-COVID patients.

“Big demand. We are not necessarily keeping up with it,” Gray said Thursday.

“At some of the places, some of our locations, there are some you can walk into but you’re waiting hours,” he said.

There is broad agreement there won’t be one testing “solution”; schools in Jefferson and Lewis counties are expected within the next two to three weeks to start testing students and staff who show symptoms - they’re already testing staff members who aren’t vaccinated and must be tested periodically; Samaritan Medical Center is “ramping up” its drive-through testing facility, according to Gray; and the state may help.

“They have called me. They’re taking a look at it,” Gray said.

Getting students tested in schools will take a lot of the pressure off.

“Obviously a lot of kids are being sent home with sneezing, with coughing, with any small symptom, and they have to be tested to get back,” said Carol Lamon from Watertown Urgent Care.

“So therefore if the schools did some of their own testing it would be a tremendous help.”

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