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Testing options arrive even with no symptoms, no doctor order

Cars line up for COVID-19 testing Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at Fort Hamilton Hospital in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Cars line up for COVID-19 testing Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at Fort Hamilton Hospital in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

More pharmacies and health centers are offering the service.

Coronavirus testing options are increasing in the region, including testing at no cost billed to patients and for people who don’t have coronavirus symptoms. Pharmacies are also beginning to get into the testing game.

This is a marked change from when the novel coronavirus was first detected in Ohio. Testing supplies were limited and access was rationed, heavily prioritizing patients sick enough to need hospitalization.

Now there’s increased testing supplies in the state, more lab capacity, wait times on results have decreased and options were added for anyone who wants a test even if they don’t have a provider’s order.

Pharmacies getting into the testing scene include Rite Aid, which is opening four coronavirus self-swab testing sites in Ohio, with one location now at 3875 Salem Ave., Dayton. The other three locations are in Cleveland, Defiance and Salem.

Rite Aid pharmacists oversee self-swab nasal tests through the store’s drive-thru windows at no cost to the patient.

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Rite Aid testing is available from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The test is available to all adults, even if they are not showing symptoms for the virus. Patients pre-register at riteaid.com.

To find options for pharmacies or other Ohio private testing sites, go to coronavirus.ohio.gov and click on "Testing and Community Health Centers." Some testing sites require provider orders and most require some type of appointment scheduling. More information is available by calling the sites or going to their websites.

Antonio Ciaccia, lobbyist with Ohio Pharmacists Association, said Ohio Medicaid announced Monday morning that it would create a process for pharmacists to be reimbursed for administering COVID-19 testing to Medicaid patients.

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He said since pharmacy locations are common and accessible, making testing more available at these sites would help with testing access.

For now, he said there’s only a handful of pharmacies with testing available and that availability is mostly based around pharmacies that were able to join a federal program funding the process.

“For the most part, access to testing at pharmacies is very, very limited and quite sporadic,” Ciaccia said.

Part of the broader access to testing has also been through community health centers, which serve patients regardless of their ability to pay or insurance status and many recently received an infusion of federal dollars for COVID-19 testing.

Locations and times of testing availability can change and interested patients can go to findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov or coronavirus.ohio.gov to find a Ohio community health center location.

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“It’s best to contact the health center directly and find out what the landscape is for that specific health center,” said Julie DiRossi-King, chief operating officer for Ohio Association of Community Health Centers.

On June 14, there were 15,180 new coronavirus tests performed in the state, according to Ohio Department of Health. About 7.5% of new tests performed in Ohio were positive for the coronavirus, down from around 13% at the beginning of May, according to researcher Loren Anthes, with the Cleveland think tank Center for Community Solutions.

A lower test positivity rate indicates testing sites are casting a broader net, potentially catching more cases and helping more people know to isolate and not spread their illness.