As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through the U.S. and the world, the demand for testing has increased to create a massive tipping point. Regular hospital and clinic testing locations are overwhelmed, lacking sufficient staff to accommodate the number of people that need to be tested. Some of the areas that are experiencing the highest infection rates are in lower income neighborhoods and they lack the ability to travel to testing facilities. If there is anything that we can say about humanity it’s that when the going gets tough, people become creative. This attitude has been applied to some of the unique methods that medical professionals have designed to get testing out to larger groups. Unlike many types of tests, patients may be required to get multiple tests over a period of time and this creates a demand that must be more easily met.
Various state health departments have partnered with the medical community to send out mobile units to some of the areas of that have had the highest COVID-19 impact for testing. They publish the locations where they will be sending the mobile units ahead of time so that people can make plans. Individuals don’t have to have symptoms, and when they arrive they are required to wear masks, practice social distancing, and are called in one at at time to avoid being too close to others. Some mobile units are also including taking the patient’s temperature as part of the testing procedures. The mobile units have been able to address the COVID-19 testing needs of some of those that have the most potential danger for getting the virus.
Pharmacies have been expanding patient care for over a decade and since some pharmacies have drive-thru pickup areas for prescriptions, they have adapted certain locations for drive-thru COVID-19 testing. Typically they require the patient to fill out a quick questionnaire as part of the process to set an appointment for testing. The questionnaire includes whether or not they have symptoms. All of this can be done online and the patient can select the pharmacy that is closest to them for an appointment. This type of testing is considered to be point-of-care, however, it is also a “hands-off” as the patient is required to do their own swabs. Once done, the swab sample is sealed and placed in an exterior container. The patient is also required to wipe down the container with an antiseptic cloth that is supplied in the kit.
Hospital and Clinic Tents
The increased number of patients inside hospitals and medical clinics has created a potential danger for those that want to get tested. Professionals were fearful that the enclosed conditions in hospitals and clinics could act as super-spreaders. To address the issue many have used extra space on their grounds to set up COVID-19 testing tents. These locations are out in the open and have the added advantage of allowing rotating medical staff to give the COVID-19 tests to those that show up. Tents are being set up based on available space as well as quantity of people in need of the tests. Most of the testing is scheduled online via an appointment and all are required to wear a mask and social distance. The outdoor tents accommodate the need for fast testing while reducing the overcrowded conditions inside hospitals and clinics.
Swap Meets, Flea Markets, Shopping Malls, and Strip Malls
It is a given that locations such as flea markets and swap meets have been shut down due to the pandemic and, that traffic to shopping malls and strip malls has dwindled to almost nothing. The one thing that all of these places have in common is that they offer large open spaces. Whether parking lots or indoor open areas, they are now being transformed into COVID-19 testing places. The benefit of each comes into play in that some are conveniently located and on bus routes. This can make it easier for those in need of COVID-19 testing to get to locations that are closer to their neighborhoods. Others, such as flea markets and swap meets have larger outdoor areas for medical tents. For those that are driving, they can accommodate the mask and social distancing requirements because there is plenty of parking space. Many of the county health departments are making use of every available space and publishing the locations online. Most require appointments to avoid overcrowding and some locations are also taking the temperature of patients as they arrive. The need for COVID-19 tests will continue and professionals anticipate that this virus, in many variations, will be with us and the world for quite a while longer. Getting testing done is a priority in saving lives and as we all get through this process together we will probably see more and more creative ways to get the testing done.