The Spokane Regional Health District plans to open a drive-thru testing site to screen patients for COVID-19 as soon as Friday, but health officials are also making sure to point out that not just anyone will be able to go get tested.
After a practice run on Thursday with first responders and health care workers who may qualify for testing, the health district plans to allow providers to refer patients they think should get tested to a drive-thru set up at the Spokane County Interstate Fairgrounds starting Friday, says Kelli Hawkins, spokeswoman for the health district.
First, you'd have to have a virtual appointment with your doctor, during which they'll screen you to find out if you do have symptoms such as a fever, cough and shortness of breath, and they will ask whether you've come into contact with someone else who tested positive or if you traveled to a high-risk country.
If they then decide to refer you to the fairgrounds setup, where health district staff and volunteer nurses will be in personal protective equipment, the staff there will screen you again to determine whether you fully qualify, Hawkins says.
At that point, if determined necessary, a swab would be taken and sent in for testing, without the patient needing to leave their car, she says.
The health district currently has just 1,000 swab kits for that testing, so it is not clear how long that will last after Friday, she says.
"This is about lessening the load at our hospitals and decreasing the probability of spreading it to other people when they’re visiting emergency rooms or clinics," Hawkins says. "We're helping to keep the community safe. It's not self-referral and you can't just show up and be tested."
The swabs are also very uncomfortable to get, either with a swab very far up the nasal cavity or deep in the throat, so Hawkins says people should really consider their risk and symptoms before calling their doctor to ask if they should be tested.
That said, the health district hopes to get a better sense of the spread of the coronavirus in the community with this testing.
"The more tests that we do, the more we can learn about COVID-19 and how to treat it and how to keep working on lessening the spread," Hawkins says.