Abington Jefferson launches drive-up testing, expects expansion

ABINGTON, Pa. (WPVI) -- Experts say a key obstacle to controlling the spread of the virus has been the lack of testing.

Commercial labs like Quest and LabCorp began offering COVID-19 testing earlier this week.

However, it's still tough to get the swabs to start the testing process.

"Testing in this region and other regions, it's really, really hard to get a test," said Dr. Judd Hollander of Jefferson Health yesterday.

Dr. Hollander says quick testing sites are only slowly getting started.

Abington Jefferson opened up the first drive-up site for COVID-19 in the area yesterday, for patients referred by doctors in the Abington Jefferson network.

It is in the parking lot of an outpatient office across from Old York Road from the main hospital.

Dr. Gerard Cleary, the hospital's Chief Medical Officer, says the site was picked, "So we can completely separate these patients from all the other patients on campus," says

Dr. Cleary says between Thursday and Friday, about 30 patients have been swabbed, with results expected in 72 hours.

The drive-up site is open 8AM to 4PM on weekdays.

Off-hours and one weekends, patients referred by their doctors will be seen at a tent set up outside the emergency department.

It avoids having patients with symptoms from coming into the E-R.

All patients who suspect coronavirus will be screened by primary care doctors according to the CDC guidelines, to make sure they need a test.

They'll then be directed toward JeffConnect, the health system's telehealth program, or to a specialized testing center.

"We've brought it in centrally so a very small group of providers are doing that process very reliably and very safely," says Dr. Cleary.

He says the commercial labs are ready.

"So far the commercial labs have been able to manage the amount of tests we have been doing both in our emergency department and at the centralized testing site," says Dr. Cleary.

In the days ahead, Dr. Cleary expects more medical practices to be included in the testing network, and more drive-up sites within the Jefferson Health System.

He's also ready for changes in the CDC's screening guidelines, to include more community-spread cases.

Dr. Cleary also expects more testing capacity as the demand rises.

Inside the containment zone in New Rochelle, New York, residents lined up in cars after waiting several days for testing.

Although President Trump said more commercial and hospital labs are also gearing up to offer testing, it has to be performed at a site that has staff fully equipped with personal protective gear.

Many centers still lack N-95 masks and gowns.

Instead of waiting for the government, the Mayo Clinic's laboratory team developed an accurate test in just a month's time.

"The plan is to offer it to anyone here at Mayo and around the country and even patients in other countries," says Matthew Binnicker, Ph.D., head of laboratories and pathology at the Mayo Clinic.

Turn-around time there is 24 hours from collection, with results sent to physicians.

"So they can make those rapid patient management decisions because information is power," says Binnicker.
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