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We encourage area residents to take advantage of upcoming COVID-19 testing. It's a way to help yourself and your community.

The tests will take place 7 a.m.-7 p.m. July 7-9 at the former Cole County Health Department, 1616 Industrial Drive in Jefferson City. The site will be staffed by the Missouri National Guard.

The tests are free to all Missouri residents and you don't have to have COVID-19 symptoms to be tested. "Free" is perhaps a misnomer — the cost is being picked up with your tax dollars, specifically the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stability Act funding.

The test sites will be manned by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Missouri National Guard in coordination with local health departments.

The tests will be done with nasal swabs, which, from what we've heard, aren't the most comfortable things in the world.

Still, getting tested is a way to give you peace of mind and a way to help health officials determine how prevalent COVID-19 is in the region.

As we recently reported, community testing is being used to help determine the number of people who have asymptomatic or presymptomatic infections — people who don't feel sick or have not yet gotten sick but are nonetheless carrying and potentially unknowingly spreading the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Registration for a community testing event includes providing one's date of birth, age, address, personal contact information and answers to questions about exposure to COVID-19 in the past two weeks.

Please wear masks in your vehicles at the test sites until you are asked to take them off for the test.

Test results are made available by phone and have also been available online or via an app through Quest Diagnostics.

It's possible for people who are infected to test negative, especially when the test is done shortly after catching the virus. So even if you test negative, it's important to watch for symptoms.

Registration is available at health.mo.gov/communitytest. Individuals who cannot register online may call the COVID-19 Hotline at 877-435-8411 for assistance.

Our view is the more tests, the merrier. A short-sighted view might be that more testing will result in a coronavirus spike in our area. That's like not wanting to go to the doctor for fear of what he might find.

Health experts know more testing means will help our battle against the virus in the long run. Unfortunately, this is becoming a longer battle than any of us would like. But testing is a key element in our arsenal.

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