Six to seven weeks ago, St. Anthony Clinic in Carroll decided to offer a drive-up station to collect samples from individuals concerned that they may have COVID-19.
In that time, the drive-up station has taken samples from between 100 and 120 individuals. The samples are sent to the state hygienic to be tested.
Not long after drive-up station opened in Carroll, the health professionals there observed a trend.
“People from Crawford County were showing up at the Carroll clinic with the same types of symptoms. That led us to believe there was more activity in Crawford County,” said Sara Roth, the emergency preparedness coordinator for St. Anthony.
In addition, two of the Crawford County residents who went to the drive-up station in Carroll tested positive for COVID-19, and at the same time, St. Anthony Clinic in Denison was receiving numerous calls from people who were complaining of the same types of symptoms.
After discussing the trend, St. Anthony decided that a drive-up collection station should be opened in Denison, or at least somewhere in Crawford County, so people would not have to travel so far to get tested. The St. Anthony Clinic along Highway 30 in Denison was selected as the site.
That site opened on April 27 and in that time just more than 50 people have had drive-up tests taken.
Going to the drive-up station requires an appointment made by a health care provider.
An individual who has concerns or suspects they have COVID-19 symptoms contacts their health care provider to discuss their concerns. The provider puts in an order for testing at the St. Anthony drive-up station, and a nurse at the clinic contacts the individual with an appointment time and instructions on how to drive up to the testing site.
Those with no health care provider, as well as anyone else, can contact St. Anthony Clinic to discuss their concerns and to be evaluated to see if they should have a test.
Criteria from the state hygienic lab is used to assess the condition of those who call in with concerns.
At the appointed time, the individual drives up to the clinic and stays in his or her vehicle. People are encouraged to wear masks at all times. A nurse in a full set of personal protective equipment (PPE) – N-95 mask, eye protection, gloves, gown and foot coverings – goes to the car and takes a nasopharyngeal (NP) swab through the individual’s nose. The swab is handled according to health guidelines and is sent to the state hygienic lab to be tested.
The turn-around time to receive tests results can vary greatly depending on the number of tests waiting to be processed at the state hygienic lab. St. Anthony’s staff tells people that they may receive results in 24 hours but staff has also seen results take as many as five days, depending on the uptick in the number of tests at the state lab.
Bailee Schleisman, St. Anthony infection preventionist, said Jackie Crampton, an advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP) at St. Anthony Clinic in Denison, has been taking calls from those concerned about their symptoms.
“Everybody wanted to get more people tested to get it (the spread of the virus) under control,” Schleisman said. “Jackie has been a huge asset to get people in Denison tested.”
Nurses and staff at St. Anthony Clinic in Denison are bilingual, to make sure that the patients are getting the right information.
While people are waiting for their test results, they should stay isolated and observe social distancing as much as possible.
“A nice thing about what is being offered with the drive-up stations is the individuals who are tested are getting a call back from nurses here or from their own provider with further instructions of what they should do if their test is negative or positive,’ said Roth.
St. Anthony has clinics in three counties – Carroll, Crawford and Sac. Justin Wieck, director of clinic services at St. Anthony, does not envision that a drive-up station will open in Sac County.
“It hasn’t been impacted to the extent that we’re seeing in Crawford County,” said Wieck.
Roth added, though, that the St. Anthony drive-up stations in Carroll and Denison are seeing residents from Sac County who have been recommended by their doctor to receive a test.
Schleisman said people don’t necessarily need to have a fever to call their health care provider but may be showing other symptoms that are listed for COVID-19, such as a cough or respiratory problems. The symptoms could be associated with another condition, such as seasonal allergies or a chronic condition, but right now health care professionals are erring on the side of caution. Individuals with any concerns are urged to call.
People who test positive and are self-isolated are instructed to call their health care provider if they believe their symptoms are getting worse.
“If you become ill, make sure to call the hospital or clinic so they will be ready for you when you arrive. That helps limit the exposure to other people,” said Roth.
Those who have COVID-19 are considered recovered when at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, they have been fever free for 72 hours and they have significant improvement in other symptoms.
As the number of positive cases decreases, St. Anthony has not set a set trigger point at which time the drive-up stations would be closed. These will continue as needed. However, once COVID-19 activity starts slowing down to a point where very few individuals are being recommended for tests, the drive-up stations might be operated on an as-needed basis.
Currently, the Carroll drive-up station is operated from 3-4:30 p.m. seven days a week and the drive-up station in Denison is open from 12-2 p.m. on weekdays.
Roth said St. Anthony would be willing to expand the hours to make more time available for testing and even expand hours into the weekends, if needed.
She said the number of individuals who receives tests at the Denison drive-up site varies from day to day but added that one day 14 people were tested.