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Prince William ends its COVID-19 testing program Friday as cases continue to fall

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A nurse reaches into a car to administer a COVID-19 test at Woodbridge Senior Center last October. The senior center was one of several sites where Prince William County officials offered free, drive-thru COVID-19 tests.

Prince William County will wrap up about 12 months of free COVID-19 testing tomorrow, Friday, May 28, with the last free tests to be administered at Splashdown Water Park in Manassas.

The county began its regular COVID-19 testing in May 2020 and will end Friday with a final round of tests from 2 to 6 p.m. at the water park, located at 7500 Ben Lomond Park Road.

The county is ending its testing program because demand is drying up. As of mid-May, the county was administering only about 50 to 75 tests a week out of the 1,200 available, according to Brian Misner, the county’s director of emergency management.

“We do continue to see a decrease in demand,” Misner told the county board of supervisors during their May 18 meeting.

The county’s testing program comprised only about 1% of the total testing happening in the county. Tests are still widely available at urgent care centers, pharmacies and doctor’s offices, and the health district continues to encourage those with symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested. 

“There has been a significant decline in residents getting tested; however, the [Prince William Health District] strongly encourages COVID-19 testing. COVID-19 testing and vaccinations are two essential tools for ending the pandemic,” Prince William Health District spokeswoman Kathy Stewart said in a news release.

On a normal Memorial Day weekend, Splashdown Water Park – the county’s largest outdoor aquatic facility – would be opening its water slides for the first day of the summer season. But the county isn’t quite back to normal yet. The pandemic has disrupted hiring at the water park, and more lifeguards are needed to reopen it, county officials announced earlier this week. Of the county’s eight outdoor aquatics facilities, only the smaller Waterworks water park in Dale City will open over the holiday weekend.

Still, other parts of life in Virginia will look more normal on Friday, May 28, when Gov. Ralph Northam is set to lift all COVID-19 occupancy and social distancing restrictions. The move will allow restaurants and shops to return to capacity. The change follows Northam’s move on May 15 to remove the state’s universal mask mandate.

The changes are coinciding with some of the lowest local and statewide COVID-19 metrics since the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

Prince William County reported only four new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, May 27, while zero new cases were reported in Manassas Park and the City of Manassas. 

Prince William reported three new hospitalizations on Thursday, however, including one of a person in their 20s. The county is still averaging about 19 COVID-19 cases per day, a reflection of higher numbers of cases reported earlier in the week. Since Monday, May 24, daily cases have fluctuated between two and 30.

Also this week, the Virginia Department of Health removed three fatalities from the county’s pandemic death toll, bringing the total number of Prince William residents lost to COVID-19 to 497, down from 500. Since the start of the pandemic, the City of Manassas has lost 47 residents to COVID-19, while the City of Manassas Park has lost 11.

Across Northern Virginia, the rate of COVID-19 cases per capita continues to fall, with Arlington reporting the lowest rate -- negative .1 cases per 100,000 residents, meaning more COVID-19 cases have been removed from Arlington’s tally than added in recent days. Fauquier County, meanwhile is reporting the highest rate at 6.7 cases per 100,000 residents.

Prince William County reported 4.2 cases per 100,000 residents on Thursday. That’s lower than at any time since last summer. By comparison, daily cases per capita peaked on Jan. 18, at more than 103 per 100,000 residents, according to VDH data.

Prince William County’s percent positivity rate on COVID tests ticked up a notch in recent days from 2.8% to 3.5%. But that’s still below the 5% threshold at which there is believed to be enough testing to identify most cases of COVID-19.

Vaccinations against COVID-19 in the county continue. As of Thursday, about 49.2% of the county’s residents have had at least one dose of the vaccine while 39.2% are fully vaccinated, according to the VDH.

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