CLIFTON PARK — As the pandemic approaches two years, town resident Sandra Balint followed a heavy procession of motorists toward the Clifton Park Senior Center for a limited supply of free, at-home COVID-19 test kits.
But in Balint’s words, she was following the science.
“I believe we have to listen to the people who are well-trained and listen to what the professionals say,” Balint said of testing for the virus amid Saratoga County’s “high” level of transmission.
Presently, 36% of county residents have received a booster vaccination, compared to only 20% as of 28 days ago, according to county data.
As Balint pulled her car to the side of the road to speak to a reporter, she noted that she had already been tested recently, when she visited her daughter in Vermont for Christmas.
“I know that there are going to be mutations, and that we have to be vigilant and do what we can do to protect not only ourselves and our families, but the community,” Balint said. “I think it’s important that we do whatever is asked of us, because I think it’s reasonable.”
Traffic was at a near standstill an hour before the event, which went from 1 to 3 p.m.
The town of about 36,000 residents received 1,600 test kits from Saratoga County, according to Deputy Town Supervisor Anthony Morelli, who helped distribute test kits to motorists who remained in their vehicles.
The county distributed 10,000 of the test kits to its cities and towns earlier this week.
Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Chairman Theodore T. Kusnierz Jr. said in a statement: “As the omicron variant continues to push case numbers to rise, testing will be an important tool in helping us mitigate the spread of COVID-19. By distributing these testing kits to municipalities for use by individuals, we will help ensure our residents throughout the county have easy access to these self-test kits.”
The congested traffic transitioned to a steady stream with about 15 minutes remaining in the event.
“We knew the turnout would be strong — we just weren’t sure how strong,” said Town Supervisor Philip Barrett, who attended but interacted with the public from a distance because he had tested positive for COVID-19 but is asymptomatic.
The event was staged in a similar manner to the town’s facemask giveaway in spring 2020, when masks were in high demand, Barrett said. Tuesday’s turnout for the test kits was much larger, Barrett said.
An attendee who would only identify himself as Mark evaded the wait by arriving on foot. He said he lived in the neighborhood and happened to be taking a walk. He said he hadn’t necessarily been in search of a test kit, but suspected the large turnout was for test kits and figured he should get one.
However, Mark, citing his daughter who is a public health nurse, said the test kits were only 75% accurate.
“I think they actually recommend that if you take one of these, and it’s negative, and you still have symptoms, to go get a PCR test,” he said.
About two dozen employees worked the event, managing traffic and handing out kits, the deputy supervisor said.
The town received the test kits on Tuesday.
“We wanted to get them out as soon as possible,” Morelli said. “We wanted to take into account traffic, and, after the school day, we didn’t want to interfere with buses.”
“Obviously the time doesn’t work for everyone,” Morelli said. “Some people are working. We get it.”
Programs in the senior center, which Morelli said are usually well attended during the afternoon, were canceled during the test kit giveaway.
Clifton Park, in fact, held its giveaway at the same time Halfmoon held theirs at Town Hall to avoid overlap, Morelli said.
But there are other means for residents to receive free testing.
The Saratoga County Community COVID-19 testing site in Malta remains open.
In partnership with a private company, the test site was opened on the belief that “testing would become a more prominent part of everyday life during the winter and holiday season,” Barrett said.
Also, the county is helping residents find at-home testing kits, testing sites and means for residents to self-report results from at-home tests on its website at www.saratogacountyny.gov/COVID.
The test kits, which were received from the state, were distributed based on the most recent census data, with each town being allocated an amount based on population, County Spokeswoman Christine Rush said.
The state has indicated that more tests will be sent to counties for distribution to residents, but county officials have not yet received information on when that may happen or the quantity of the next allocation, Rush said.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected]net or 518-419-9766.