PHOTO: Testing site (copy)

BetterMed Urgent Care employees conduct curbside tests in Spotsylvania in April.

When local hospitals first started screening patients for possible COVID-19 infections in mid-March, test kits and guidelines were so limited that doctors tested only the desperately ill.

For instance, on March 18, only six people were tested in the Rappahannock Area Health District, which includes Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford. That number changed considerably over the weeks that followed and on May 9—the high point to date—387 local residents were tested for the virus.

There are 23 clinics and medical facilities in the area offering testing, and results are available in two to three days, said Dr. Donald Stern, acting director of the local health district. Early on, some residents waited as long as nine days for results, he said.

Public health officials say that as testing expands, the number of positive results should shrink compared with the total number of people tested. If more than 10 percent of those tested are positive, there’s not enough testing being done, according to the World Health Organization.

Local numbers remain above that benchmark. In May, the local rate of positive tests has fluctuated between 14 percent and 18 percent, according to the state health department. There have been 7,156 people tested in the local health district, which is ranked seventh among the state’s 35 health districts in the number of people tested.

As of Thursday, there were 1,107 positive cases locally, with 540 in Stafford, 366 in Spotsylvania, 107 in Fredericksburg, 49 in King George and 45 in Caroline. Elsewhere in the region, there were 526 cases in Culpeper County, 261 in Fauquier County, 73 in Orange County and 43 in Westmoreland.

Statewide, the percentage of positive tests has been declining since mid-April, when the rate was 22 percent. As of Thursday, the rate of positive tests had dropped to 14.4 percent. There were 34,137 cases and 1,099 deaths from COVID-19 statewide.

The state health department’s website says all the results are based on PCR tests in which nasal swabs are used to determine if the person is infected with the virus.

Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425

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