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Drive-thru COVID testing offered across county

Testing for the novel coronavirus is expanding across Bell County, and so are the number of positive cases.

Drive-thru testing is available in several locations, including Kentucky Friendly Care Center. The center began offering free drive-thru tests last week at its 125 Lothbury Avenue location in Middlesboro, and officials there say they have been busy.

Tonya Jones, a certified medical assistant at Kentucky Friendly Care Center, said they performed 38 tests last Wednesday in the 7-hour period they offered the tests. This week, on Wednesday, they had performed 40 tests just past the halfway mark in the day.

“Turnaround time right now because of the influx that we’re having is 24 to 72 hours. We get the results electronically, and our office manager calls the patient yes or no,” Jones said. “We let everyone know the results whether it’s positive or negative, just to give them peace of mind.”

KFCC uses a nasal swab test. Although there is a wait for results, office manager Pamela Meyers said the nasal test provides more reliable results than some methods that offer faster results.

“We do the swab testing, not the rapid test, because we feel it’s more accurate,” Meyers said. Jones explained that the rapid test involves a swab being placed inside the nasal cavity for about 15 seconds, and results are given in about 15 minutes.

The nasal test being administered by KFCC involves a swab being placed into the nose of the patient for a brief time, although it does go well into the nostril. Jones described it as “relatively painless,” and “very discomforting.”

“I test myself at least once a week, and I do my own test. I swab myself at least once a week, and I’m a baby,” she said laughing.

KFCC offers drive-thru testing Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Jones said there is no charge, but patients are asked to bring a photo ID and an insurance card. She said the lab that conducts the testing bills insurance, but she stressed that patients will not receive a bill for the test.

Testing has also been conducted locally by Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation. Tammy Collett, a registered nurse, is also the company’s regional director for Cumberland Valley clinics. She said they have been conducting tests throughout the areas of their nine clinics in southeastern Kentucky.

“We have a mobile unit, it’s a Ford Transit van that we have had wrapped to promote mobile testing. We are traveling to different areas in the communities we serve. We are using the units – we have two – we are using them to go into the communities rather than having the patients have to come out to us,” she explained.

Collett said the units allow staff members to perform two types of tests, including a rapid test and a regular swab test.

“The rapid test usually takes about 15 minutes. We can give the patient a preliminary result at that time, so they will get a negative or positive within 15 minutes depending on the volume of patients, of course,” she said. “Those tests are pretty accurate, but there is a small window where you can have a false negative or a false positive, so we also do a second swab for send out, and we send that to LabCorp, and they will get a confirmation of that within 2-3 days.”

Collett said MCHC has been performing tests at the Pineville Health Department and Middlesboro Health Department, and they plan to return to those locations again in the coming week. She said they did approximately 450 tests last week, and of those they received “about 10 to 12 positives,” adding that those were preliminary test results.

“It’s actually not been as high as we thought it would be considering the outbreak in Bell County,” she added.

Collett said MCHC has reached out to businesses, organizations, assisted living homes, nursing homes, and any place that might benefit from on-site testing. She said they were contacted by The High Rise, an assisted living center in Bell County, and asked to provide testing for any residents who might be interested, and they were going to the center Friday.

Anyone going to an MCHC testing site is asked to bring a photo ID and an insurance card. Collett said patients will not be billed, and anyone who does not have an insurance card with them will not be turned away. She also said patients are encouraged to complete new patient paperwork online before arriving to save time, but added that is not required, and anyone who has been treated at MCHC in the past is not required to complete the paperwork.

In addition to testing, Collett said the units have mobile hotspots which can provide telehealth for patients who may have the need.

“If a patient has a lot of symptoms or had another issue, and they weren’t able to get internet or a device at home to allow them to do a telehealth visit, they can also come out to our mobile unit and we can help them get set up there,” she explained. “We have tablets on each unit that are set up for Zoom, so if a patient had significant symptoms and they felt like they needed to talk to a provider, we can let them do that right there.”