The University of Louisville Health system launched a drive-thru coronavirus test site at a downtown parking lot Thursday to screen high-risk patients.
The tests, held at the corner of Brook and Liberty streets downtown, were expected to focus on about 12 patients sent to the site with appointments after the 1 p.m. start.
Dr. Hugh Shoff, an emergency medicine doctor, appeared at a press availability near the spot where three staffers in blue gowns, face shields and masks met patients and apparently some companions riding along as they rolled into the parking lot.
The goal is to direct vulnerable patients with underlying conditions to the site to keep potential COVID-19 sufferers from spreading the disease to other patients and staff at doctor’s offices. It also helps the health system focus its testing resources and preserve personal protective equipment, known as PPE, Shoff said.
Besides roughly a dozen patients sent to the parking lot on Thursday, the health system expected to see 20 to 30 on Friday and more as they ramp up.
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“Those experiencing severe symptoms, that best qualify for hospital-level care, should still seek care at an emergency room,” U of L officials said in a statement announcing the drive-thru plans on Thursday morning.
During the briefing with Shoff and Cindy Lucchese, chief nurse executive at University of Louisville Physicians, two SUV’s and a white pickup rolled into a lane leading to the U of L crew. Those in protective gowns went through a fairly speedy process, checking IDs and verifying the persons’ appointments.
Then they were to take a specimen by inserting a long swap up the patient’s nostril. Much of what went on wasn’t visible across the parking lot to the media on hand to protect patient privacy.
As at other locations, officials are emphasizing that the drive-thru offering isn’t intended for the “worried well,” but for those who have already been screened and referred by a primary care provider to get the test.
The collected samples at U of L’s event will be sent off to one of three labs the health system uses. They’re checked for cells identified with COVID-19, and results are back in several days, spokesman David McArthur said.
Last weekend in Indiana, Floyd County’s health department began drive-thru testing in New Albany.
The World Health Organization has urged countries to quickly ramp up testing to identify those who are infected and to quarantine them and those around them who have been exposed.
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The urgency in Kentucky, Louisville and other communities is that the number of those infected with the virus is expected to spike dramatically this week, so preparedness measures overall are beginning to take shape quickly, including additional testing.
President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force has urged health departments to focus on the elderly, who are more at risk for serious illness from the virus, and health care workers with symptoms.
Gov. Andy Beshear confirmed this week that at least four front-line doctors and nurses were among the more than 200 Kentuckians who have tested positive for the virus.
Grace Schneider: 502-582-4082; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @gesinfk. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/graces
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