Hundreds seek drive-up testing; one site closed

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A line of cars stretches towards Presbyterian Healthcare’s drive-up COVID-19 testing center in Northwest Albuquerque on Monday. The traffic backed up along Western Trail and Atrisco Drives NW. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)
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A line of cars stretches towards Presbyterian Healthcare’s drive-up COVID-19 testing center in Northwest Albuquerque on Monday. The traffic backed up along Western Trail and Atrisco Drives NW. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Fearing they may be infected with the coronavirus, hundreds have flocked in recent days to the Albuquerque hospitals offering drive-up COVID-19 testing, forcing one of the sites to shut temporarily because of dwindling resources and supplies.

Whitney Marquez, a spokeswoman for Lovelace Medical Center, said Monday that the hospital was temporarily putting its drive-up testing site on hold. The hospital was the first to start offering the service in Albuquerque on Friday evening. The site tested hundreds of people before its resources were taxed.

By Monday afternoon, the long lines of people seeking to be tested had spread to the city’s West Side. There, a long line of cars snaked through the neighborhoods and streets that surround Presbyterian’s drive-up COVID-19 testing site.

The line for the test at PresNow, 4515 Coors NW, was so long that portable toilets were set up along the line.

Presbyterian Healthcare Services started offering drive-up testing for the virus Sunday, and more than 300 people were screened that day, said Alyssa Armijo, a hospital spokeswoman.

Lines were still long Monday afternoon.

Armijo said Monday that Presbyterian is requiring patients to be screened before being tested for COVID-19. The hospital screens for symptoms, such as fever and dry cough, and recent travel to coronavirus hot spots or exposure to infected individuals. The screening can be done on the Department of Health’s hotline: 1-855-600-3453.

“We are not open to the public as a drive-up like a restaurant,” Dr. Jeff Salvon-Harman, the chief patient safety officer and medical director of infection control at Presbyterian, said Friday. “These drive-ups are a means of lowering exposure risk to other patients and staff.”

At the drive-up testing sites, the patients stay in their cars and a health care provider, covered in protective garb, approaches and takes a nasopharngeal swab, which is essentially a deep nasal swab that touches the back of the throat, Salvon-Harman said.

The specimens are then sent to a lab to test for COVID-19 and the results are available 1-3 days later, according to hospital officials.

Officials with the Department of Health didn’t respond to calls or emails about testing availability on Monday.

Paul Roth, chancellor of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, said in a university message that UNM had opened a Respiratory Care Center that offers walk-in testing.

Journal photographer Roberto E. Rosales contributed to this report.

 

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