WhidbeyHealth opens drive-thru testing

People don’t have to leave their cars to get tested for coronavirus on Whidbey Island.

WhidbeyHealth Medical Center in Coupeville is offering drive-thru COVID-19 testing for those who meet testing criteria, the hospital district announced. The hospital set up a tent behind the hospital where a patient can drive up and a nurse will take nasal swabs through the car window.

“As the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic expands around the world, WhidbeyHealth is committed to the global containment effort while assuring the safety of our patients and staff,” WhidbeyHealth CEO Ron Telles said in a statement. “Sampling patients without getting out of the car is one way to expedite the process while reducing risk to patients, staff and others who may have compromised immune systems.”

At the same time, new limitations on visitors and a screening system have been implemented inside the hospital to protect patients and staff from the highly contagious virus. As of Tuesday morning, Island County Public Health reports that there are 11 confirmed cases throughout Whidbey and Camano islands.

People who want to be tested for COVID-19 must first call the WhidbeyHealth Coronavirus Hotline at 360-240-4055 to speak with a nurse and learn if they meet the hospital’s criteria for testing.

On Monday, the first day of the drive-thru testing, the hotline received 180 calls and 120 were answered. Of those, 20 patients were approved for sampling from a car and 18 patients were swabbed, the hospital reported.

The hospital’s testing criteria was developed in conjunction with the University of Washington, the state Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, according to Public Relations Officer Patricia Duff.

People with symptoms can be tested if they traveled internationally in the last two weeks; have been in close contact with someone with the virus in the last two weeks; or have spent time in a long-term care facility in the last two weeks.

Those in the highest risk categories are prioritized, Duff said. They are health care workers, first responders, the immunocompromised, people over 65 years old, pregnant women, the homeless and people who live in long-term care settings, which includes nursing homes and jails.

Not everyone with symptoms needs to be tested for COVID-19, Island County Public Health explained. People with suspected COVID-19 should not go to the hospital or the ER for testing unless their symptoms require medical care.

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