Free Covid-testing drive-thru opens Wednesday at UNCW

Public health nurse Tammy Dilling shows how she will administer a nasal swab to New Hanover County residents reporting symptoms of Covid-19. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)
A drive-thru testing site will be set up at UNCW beginning Wednesday, March 24. It will provide free testing for the community through April . Above is public health nurse Tammy Dilling who helped test people reporting symptoms last year. (Port City Daily/Mark Darrough)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Testing will get underway once again on UNCW’s campus for those who may have been exposed or think they may have Covid-19, or for folks who need to be tested for peace of mind. The free community testing site will be set up beginning Wednesday, March 24, and will continue through April 30.

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Symptoms are not needed to reserve an appointment, and according to a release, the site is intended to help the community-at-large. “UNCW is providing free testing for students, faculty and staff at other campus locations,” the release specified.


The mass-testing site is a partnership between UNCW, New Hanover County Public Health, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and OptumServe. While OptumServe is utilizing its team and resources to test the community, NCDHHS is covering all costs.

Health officials have acknowledged a leveling of the Covid-19 curve from vaccinations and low viral spread, though the CDC is reporting the county is up 1.9% from last week to 6.07% positivity from testing. Continuing mitigation efforts — mask-wearing, hand-washing, waiting 6 feet apart, and of course testing and contact-tracing — helps keep the goal to 5% or below viral spread, which New Hanover has been hitting consistently as of late.

New Hanover County set up testing sites last year but around December, as other testing options became available through pharmacies and even at-home kits, public health switched its focus to the vaccination rollout.

Spokesperson Jessica Loeper said the testing site isn’t being launched in response to numbers increasing in the community or projected Covid-19 spikes. “It’s simply to ensure the community in our area has convenient access to testing,” she said.

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The testing site is free and will be able to accommodate 200 drive-thru patients a day. Folks must register for an appointment; anyone without internet access or who needs to register a minor can do so by calling (877) 562-4850.

The site will be set up weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the parking lot at the corner of Hurst and Hamilton drives, near the Greene Track and Field Complex. Drivers will approach campus from Hurst Drive. 

Whether the Covid-19 testing site continues beyond April is up in the air.

“[It] will be reevaluated closer to that end date to determine if extending the site is needed and/or feasible between all partners,” Loeper said.


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