New Orleans Opens Drive-Thru Coronavirus Testing for Responders

"What we're doing here today and through this process, however long it goes, is working toward informing the federal government and other local jurisdictions on how this is going to work going forward."

by Jeff Adelson, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate / March 20, 2020
A patient is tested by a health-care professional at a drive-thru testing site for COVID-19 at United Memorial Medical Center Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Houston. For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. AP

(TNS) -- More than a dozen vehicles were lined up outside Armstrong Park as New Orleans' first drive-thru coronavirus testing centers opened to first responders and health care workers Friday morning.

The testing sites, in the parking lots of the Mahalia Jackson Theater and the University of New Orleans' Lakefront Arena, have the ability to do up to 100 tests per day each due to limits on the number of tests that can be processed, New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director Collin Arnold said at a press briefing Friday morning.

"I hope I get a lot, I hope I get 100," Arnold said. "I want to get these tests done."

A similar site to test for the coronavirus, or COVID-19, is still being set up in Jefferson Parish at the Alario Center in Westwego and is expected to be up and running in the coming days.

The Louisiana National Guard helped set up all three sites and is assisting in staffing them.

The three sites are part of a pilot program being administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services involving four metro areas around the country. New Orleans is the first of those cities to actually begin testing, according to city officials.

"What we're doing here today and through this process, however long it goes, is working toward informing the federal government and other local jurisdictions on how this is going to work going forward," Arnold said. "It's unprecedented."

The program is for health care professionals and first responders who are showing symptoms only.

"They are on the frontlines of this because we have to know if they're sick and we have to, to the best of our ability, keep them on the frontlines," Arnold said.

Those seeking to be tested will have to show identification and evidence they are one of the groups that qualify. The federal government has also asked those being tested to show evidence of health insurance if they have it, though no one will be turned away if they don't and Arnold said he doesn't know of any plan to charge for the tests.

The testing sites will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, or until they reach the limit of the tests they can do each day. People who come in to take the test will first have their temperature taken to determine if they have a fever and, if they do, a nasal swab will be administered and tested.

Each site has 2,400 tests available at the moment, giving them enough tests to keep up and running for 24 days.

Those who are tested will get a phone call with results from HHS within three or four days, Arnold said. Workers who test positive will likely be put in quarantine to keep them from spreading the virus.

Arnold said the pilot program could be used as a template for a more expansive testing program.

"I think that's going to happen," Arnold said.

If you have questions about coronavirus, please email our newsroom at online@theadvocate.com.

———

©2020 The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

Visit The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate at www.nola.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Platforms & Programs