UPDATED March 18, 2020:
COVID-19 tests on 219 people were collected during the first day of drive-up testing as health officials discuss whether to open additional sites.
The region’s first drive-up testing for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, began in earnest on Tuesday at the University of Dayton Arena parking lot. By the time it ended 235 people had come to be tested, said Sharon Howard, director of site communications for Premier Health.
There were 107 people tested for the flu, and 16 came back positive. Results from the 219 specimens sent to be tested for COVID-19 should be available within 24 to 48 hours.
The first positive test for the novel coronavirus in Montgomery County is expected to result from samples taken at the site on Tuesday, said Dr. Joseph Allen, regional medical director at Premier Health.
Testing continues daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the arena parking lot, 1801 Edwin C. Moses Blvd. in Dayton. Those being tested must first have a doctor’s note saying they meet the criteria to be tested, Allen said.
Those criteria include: virus symptoms such as fever, dry cough and shortness of breath; contact with someone who has tested positive or cases where the person has traveled overseas. Fifty people without a note were turned away by Tuesday afternoon after first being directed to see a primary care doctor and provided with resources on where to find one.
Individuals are asked to bring their health insurance cards with them to the site but do not have to provide co-pays on site.
Manufacturers are ramping up production of testing kits, which include swabs used to collect nasal cells and secure specimen bottles, and the test analysis kits, which labs used to determine if the sample is positive for COVID-19. LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, the two major testing laboratories, say they will each be able to perform about 10,000 tests per day nationally by the end of the week and 20,000 per day by the end of March.
Local health officials said there is a national shortage of testing swabs. Premier Health had access to about 3,000 of the swabs needed to test for the coronavirus as of Tuesday, Allen said.
“That is hopefully going to increase,” Allen said.
Premier Health collaborated with the University of Dayton to set up the testing site. On site were at least four doctors, about 15 advanced practice nurses and multiple support staff, including volunteers, Allen said. CompuNet is collaborating with Premier and Fidelity Urgent Care to collect and forward specimens to Quest Diagnostics for COVID-19 testing. UD handled traffic at the arena testing site, and drivers lined up to be registered and then directed to one of two testing tents.
Most were tested first for influenza in a tent where medical personnel wearing protective gear collected swabs, which were tested onsite while patients waited inside their vehicles. Those who tested positive for flu were directed to their primary care doctor for treatment, and in some cases assessed and treated on site, Allen said.
“If you have the flu test as a negative, you go on to the COVID testing at that point,” Allen said.
Those people went to a separate tent, where medical personnel wearing even more protective gear first tested the patient for a viral respiratory panel of about 23 different viruses, Allen said. Those samples were tested on site and those who tested positive were directed to a doctor for treatment.
The last group were those who tested negative on the viral respiratory panel. Their specimens were sent to a lab for testing for COVID-19.
“The test will take about 24-48 hours to come back and in that meantime, we recommend self-quarantine,” Allen said.
Even with a negative test result, Allen said people should remain in isolation until they have had no symptoms for 24 to 48 hours.
For those who test positive, the lab will alert the Ohio Department of Health and the primary care physician who ordered the test, and that doctor is in charge of alerting the patient of the test results, Allen said.
Health officials are emphasizing that a doctor’s note is required for testing and say that those who do not have a doctor should visit an urgent care. Health officials also are asking that people who suspect they may have been exposed to the coronavirus or have COVID-19 should call in advance of going to an urgent care or an emergency room so they can be met by medical personnel and isolated from others waiting for care.
People who do not have a primary care physician also can contact Premier Health virtual care through premierhealth.com, Howard said.
Health care providers are in discussions about adding sites for drive-up testing in the Dayton region, but no decisions had been made as of Tuesday afternoon, said Sarah Hackenbracht, president and chief executive of the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association.
Allen thinks more testing sites will be added.
“In my opinion this is kind of the right way to do this,” Allen said.
He said the testing sites also help because there is a limited amount of protective equipment available for medical personnel.
“So being able to coalesce those in one area makes it much better for everybody involved,” Allen said. “We really want to keep our providers safe as well. It’s hard for them to fight this disease if they have it.”
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