ASHTABULA — The first COVID-19 pop-up testing site in Ashtabula County was held on Monday in Ashtabula.

The testing site was located at Our Lady of Peace Parish community center, and was hosted by the Ashtabula City Health Department, said city Health Commissioner Christine Hill. The Ohio National Guard performed the tests themselves, and volunteers registered people who arrived to be tested.

Pop-up testing sites were created by Gov. Mike DeWine's Minority Health Task Force in order to improve testing in areas with large minority or high risk populations, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The tests performed at the event were the gold standard for COVID-19 testing, Hill said.

The site was capable of doing 500 tests, Hill said.

"That'd be about the most we could do," she said.

The average number of tests done at similar pop-up testing sites has been between 300 and 350, Hill said.

Ashtabula City Manager Jim Timonere, who was volunteering at the event, said the additional testing would be helpful to know how much community spread there was in the area.

"It's a big deal for a community like ours," he said.

Liz Penna, President of the Ashtabula NAACP, lobbied for a pop-up testing site in the area.

"It's something that's needed," she said.

The need for testing has increased with students going back to school, Penna said.

The event has been in the works for about six weeks, Hill said.

"It's been a long process," she said.

The Ashtabula City Health Department was approached by two churches, Hill said.

"Their members felt a little frustrated at the lack of free testing," Hill said. "We do have testing, but you usually have to have one or two symptoms."

Hill expected most of the people who got tested on Monday to be asymptomatic, she said. People with symptoms are encouraged to reach out to their doctor, Hill said.

People looking for tests began arriving at around 9:30 a.m., Hill said.

"I had to assure them that there's plenty of testing for everyone," she said.

People seeking a test were cooperative with mask requirements, Hill said. All of the volunteers wore masks, and the people administering the test wore gowns, masks, gloves and goggles, Hill said.

Hill hoped that more entities will end up hosting pop-up testing sites in the county, she said. If they do, the Ashtabula City Health Department will assist them, Hill said.

People who were tested at the event should get their results within 48 to 72 hours. 

Hill thanked the Conneaut Health Department, Ashtabula County Health Department, the NAACP, State Road Medical Facility, Community Care Ambulance Network and the Ashtabula City Manager's Office, Police and Public Works departments, she said. At the state level, she thanked the National Guard, the Ohio Department of Health and Gov. Mike DeWine's office.

The total number of tests administered was not available at the time of writing.

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