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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Hamilton County Health Department Administrator of Health Services Becky Barnes speaks during a press briefing before a tour of the Alstom COVID-19 testing site on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Starting Thursday, COVID-19 testing at the Alstom site through the Hamilton County Health Department will run from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Becky Barnes, the administrator for the department, said the change was made to ensure better safety for staff at the site.

"The Health Department is adjusting the testing site hours by adapting to the shortening days to enhance safety for our workers," Barnes said in a statement. "The later shift will allow increased daylight and warmer temperatures."

(READ MORE: Hamilton County lifts COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, gatherings)

The testing site on Riverfront Parkway previously ran from 7:30 to 11 a.m. every day, and Barnes noted the schedule shift still allows for 4.5 hours of available testing every day. She said the department does not believe the shift will hurt the public's ability to access testing.

People will also no longer receive their test results through the mail, unless they do not have internet access. Otherwise, individual results can be found using a web portal using directions handed out by the health department.

The health department has conducted more than 80,000 tests since the pandemic began. The Alstom site has been the main location for free COVID-19 testing in the county since the beginning of August. The health department previously moved its testing site from the emissions testing center to various Hamilton County school buildings to various local churches.

During a tour of the Alstom location last week, health department leaders said they expect more people to be tested as temperatures drop and seasonal colds or the flu become more common. Many of the symptoms of COVID-19 — such as fever, cough and chills — mirror other common illnesses that increase during colder months.

(READ MORE: Where to get tested for COVID-19 in the Chattanooga region and other frequently asked questions)

On Wednesday, the department announced 51 new cases, bringing the county total to 9,825. There are 602 active cases in the county and 59 people hospitalized, including 13 people receiving treatment in the intensive care unit.

In the past week, the county averaged a positivity rate of 7.2% on new tests and is averaging 63 new cases a day. The health department also announced two new deaths Wednesday, bringing the county total to 97 since the pandemic began.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger announced Wednesday the health department is ordering the removal of certain COVID-19 restrictions following the authority delegated by Gov. Bill Lee through an executive order released Tuesday.

"We are going in the right direction, and we don't want to have any setbacks," Coppinger said.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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