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Local hospitals launch drive-up COVID-19 testing

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Health care workers wearing protective masks, gowns and gloves were standing next to tents at a makeshift clinic at Lovelace Medical Center on Friday evening, where a drive-up COVID-19 testing site opened.

This type of testing can serve multiple benefits, such as reducing emergency room crowding and giving better data to public health officials, said Dr. Vesta Sandoval, chief medical officer for the Lovelace Health System. She said it’s likely that additional drive-up testing sites will be running soon.

Sandoval said Lovelace opened drive-up testing for the coronavirus in the evening and the hospital plans to offer those services from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, for the foreseeable future at its Downtown center.

The hope is that people with mild symptoms, or those who don’t have symptoms, but recently traveled or had contact with an infected person, can give a quick specimen that is then tested at a local diagnostic lab. The patient will stay in their car and get a nasal swab taken. Results will be available 48 to 72 hours later, Sandoval said. She said the hospital doesn’t plan to turn away people or require a doctor’s order.

“It helps to take those patients with very mild symptoms and allow them to be tested, so they know yes or no, without coming into the emergency room,” Sandoval said.

The hospital has drive-up testing at its facility in the 600 block of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. NE. Sandoval said that the Department of Health is working with local health care providers and that additional drive-up testing sites are expected to be up and running soon.

Presbyterian Healthcare Services was working Friday night to try to launch a drive-up site this weekend, said Dr. Jeff Salvon-Harman, the chief patient safety officer and medical director of infection control at Presbyterian. He said the patients will give a specimen, which will be sent for testing to TriCore Reference Laboratories, the same lab that Lovelace is using.

The lab announced Thursday that, under the FDA Emergency Use Authorization, it is now performing a molecular diagnostic test of respiratory specimens for COVID-19 virus.

Salvon-Harmon said patients wanting to be tested for COVID-19 at the Presbyterian drive-up site will need a doctor’s order, which could be obtained by calling the state coronavirus hotline.

“We’re using those drive-up testing sites to collect specimens from folks who otherwise would be going into a facility,” he said. “So it’s a way to keep them out of our emergency rooms and urgent cares so those facilities can attend to the acutely ill, and also prevent them from having to enter primary care offices and doctors’ offices and expose other people.”

Sandoval said that on Thursday, Lovelace was on its highest level of alert because of an influx of patients who were concerned they had the virus.

UNMH is not offering drive-up testing.

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