Nine people were tested for coronavirus during the first hour that drive-thru testing was available Wednesday at Boone Hospital Center.
The first samples were taken at noon, the same time University of Missouri Health Care opened its drive-thru testing services. While numbers weren’t available, there were 10 appointments on the schedule by mid-morning.
Both locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays to take samples from people who are referred for a test based on Centers for Disease Control and state guidelines. The MU Health site will be open those hours on weekends as well, with Boone working out weekend hours.
At a news conference with Gov. Mike Parson, Dr. Randall Williams, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, said the state has supplies on hand to handle the anticipated demand for tests over the next two to three weeks.
To receive an order to be tested, patients must display symptoms such as coughing, sneezing and fever, Boone Chief Medical Officer Robin Blount said at a news conference. Asymptomatic patients won’t be able to receive a test.
"That actually doesn't make sense," she said. "If you don't have any exposures or risk factors or symptoms, you can be tested today and think that you're fine, and then in a few days, things can change, and if you have symptoms, you would have to be tested again."
The test, which involves a swab of the inside of a patient’s nose, is available at the new drive-thru clinic located at the University of Missouri softball field. The clinic will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. After receiving the test, Dr. Jonathan Heidt, MU vice chair of clinical operations for emergency medicine, said patients can expect to receive their results within 24 hours.
"We are still adjusting to administrative needs now, but our goal is to be in that 24-hour time period," Heidt said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Boone Hospital’s drive-thru location opened at noon in a location just south of the Emergency Department entrance on the southwest side of the hospital. Patients should enter off of Anthony Street, according to a news release.
There is no out-of-pocket cost for the testing at either location, but patients should bring insurance information if they have coverage.
Test results could take anywhere from 4-36 hours to receive back, depending on when they were first received.
For example, a specimen collected at 7 p.m. may take longer to process than a specimen collected earlier in the day, Blount said.
Boone Hospital has a supply of test kits "in the hundreds," Blount said, but did not provide an exact number or more specific estimate.
The hospital tested its first case March 13, she said. Until now, it has been very hard to receive testing materials, she said.
"Frankly, it was very difficult to get testing done initially because we could only test through the state, and the state required a significant amount of discussion on the front end that made you have to meet very, very severe criteria before they would release a test," she said. "So we have done a few through the state but you know, as has been shown nationally and in the state, they've ramped up the availability of testing and we're taking advantage of that."
Specimens will be tested by GeneTrait, a medical lab located in Columbia that is also being used by MU Health Care for their testing services.
Those who would like to be tested for COVID-19 should first use the university’s virtual urgent care platform or call their primary care physician to assess whether they qualify.
Although screenings are also available at local emergency rooms and urgent care facilities, Heidt advises patients to call their physician or use the virtual care portal.
"It avoids risk of exposure for themselves or others and it would determine if they qualified for this test faster than going through the ER process," he said. "When a patient presents to the emergency department, they will be triaged according to severity of illness so their wait times may be different based on their severity of need."
As of Wednesday, Heidt said the situation is "stable" in terms of how many tests the hospital has at its disposal, although he didn’t give a specific number.
He also guaranteed all patients would be tested or screened regardless of their insurance status. However, he did not know how much the test cost or how patients would be billed
Boone hospital changed its visitor policies Wednesday, to the dismay of a group of people found standing at the entrance in the afternoon who hadn’t yet heard of the policy.
Only one visitor is allowed per patient in the center, Blount said. Exceptions will be provided for patients in the obstetrics and neonatal and intensive care units, where two visitors will be allowed. Exceptions will also be made for patients in compassionate or palliative care.
All visitors are screened at the entrance with questions regarding their recent travel and whether they’ve been experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
The hospital has a licensed capacity of nearly 400 beds, Blount said, but that doesn’t mean there are 400 beds immediately available.
"We generally run a census around 200 to 220," Blount said. "And, you know, ‘licensed bed’ does not necessarily mean the bed’s ready to be used … but we can ramp up and do as needed."
The samples are talken by a nasopharyngeal swab and results should be available within 24 hours, Jeanette Linebaugh, director nursing for MU’s Ambulatory Clinic.
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