By Lisa Spear
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow, health authorities in the United States have begun taking emergent action by setting up drive-thru coronavirus testing facilities and building temporary hospitals. These facilities are designed to prevent the spread of the virus by testing people in their vehicles, with minimal exposure to healthcare providers and other patients.
The drive-thru coronavirus testing facilities are just one effort to flatten the curve of the virus’s spread by taking, in most cases, nasal or oral swabs as the patient waits in their car. These mobile units have appeared outside medical centers, in shopping mall parking lots, and even next to churches. Some are requiring a doctor’s note, but other testing sites only ask that patients be screened over the phone by first calling a hotline.
Still, the facilities follow strict parameters of who can get a test, often stipulating that patients have symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath and have either a recent history of travel to an impacted country or contact with a person who has become sick with COVID-19.
New York City’s First Drive-thru Testing Location Draws Crowds
Upon its opening day, the city’s first drive-thru COVID-19 center on the grounds of a psychiatric hospital in Staten Island saw a high turnout. News outlets reported that state troopers and the National Guard patrolled the area as people drove up in their vehicles for testing. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday that more city-run drive-thru testing locations will open across the boroughs within the next week, reports the local television station NY1. As of Mar 22, the city had over 10,000 cases, and the state had over 15,000.
CVS Opens First Drive-thru Testing Spot, Limited to First Responders
A large tent in a CVS parking lot in Massachusetts is home to the first CVS-operated testing facility, which is dedicated to screening those who are on the frontlines of the fight against the novel coronavirus. Nurses, physicians, and other healthcare workers as well as other first responders, including firefighters and police officers, can get screened at this center in Worcester County for free. Tests are only administered to people after they are confirmed to have a fever. According to a report from CNBC, it is not yet clear when or where CVS testing sites will open to the general public.
One South Florida Testing Site Runs Out of Kits
Despite efforts to bring testing to the public, at least one of the first testing facilities to open in South Florida is already running short on test kits. One testing site that opened in Miami-Dade County this week quickly ran out of test kits, reported The Miami New Times. There is no word on whether other testing facilities that opened in the state in recent days, including one in Pompano Beach and another in Miami Gardens, are also struggling to meet demand, according to local news reports. By early next week, another mobile testing operation is set to open in the Florida Keys.
COVID-19-Positive Patient Removed from Car During Mobile Testing in Houston
A medical center in Houston, Texas launched its drive-through COVID-19 testing program on Thursday and was met with high demand as a line of at least 100 cars gathered by the facility with drivers eager to know if they had contracted the virus, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle. Healthcare workers wearing full-body protective suits were seen as they took swabs from people outside the medical center. One patient was removed from a vehicle after presenting symptoms of the novel coronavirus and rushed into the hospital.
Pop-up Screening Units Come to California
Several drive-thru testing facilities have arrived in California. Stanford Health launched one in Palo Alto while Kaiser is responsible for the development of at least one unit in the San Francisco Bay Area. An additional two mobile testing facilities have deployed in Orange County. The testing sites come after the state’s Gov Gavin Newsom said recently that more than half of the state’s population could become sick with COVID-19 within the next eight weeks, Business Insider reports.
Alabama Church Parking Lot is Now a COVID-19 Testing Site
Almost 1,000 people have driven to tents set up in a church parking lot to get screened for the novel coronavirus in Jefferson County, Alabama. Volunteers and church employees helped with the testing process as medical workers from a local health center coordinated the effort. Those people looking to get screened who have medical insurance will be billed through their insurance, but people who have no coverage receive the test for free, according to local media reports. Other southern states are also following suit with a mobile testing unit planned to open in the coming days in one Georgia community.
Image: Broward Health staff test for COVID-19 at a drive-thru testing facility in Pompano Beach, Florida on March 20, 2020.