Both Sentara Healthcare and M Health Fairview announced they have suspended drive-through testing sites to preserve their limited supply of testing supplies. Norfolk, Va.-based Sentara announced Wednesday it would temporarily close its drive-through locations beginning at 2 p.m.
"We know that COVID-19 is a critical concern for our communities, so we are actively working with state and federal officials to get more testing supplies," Sentara wrote in a news release.
Sentara screened 1,760 people for COVID-19 from its drive-thru and other testing sites and tested 786, spokeswoman Kelly Kennedy wrote in an email. An average of 45% of patients screened met the criteria for testing, with results expected in two to five days.
Sentara hopes to re-open some drive-thru locations soon, Kennedy said.
M Health Fairview in Minneapolis said Wednesday morning its drive-up testing centers are closed effective immediately. The move is happening in response to a Minnesota Department of Health guideline directing providers across the state to conserve limited testing supplies for critically ill patients, spokeswoman Aimeé Jordan wrote in an email. M Health Fairview has operated four drive-up sites since March 9.
Sentara directed patients with COVID-19 symptoms to contact their primary care providers or call Sentara's hotline at 1-833-945-2395. The health system emphasized that people should call the hotline before visiting a Sentara location.
"If it is not an emergency, we kindly ask that you remain at home," the health system said.
M Health Fairview encouraged patients to visit OnCare.org to receive virtual symptom evaluation and advice. The health system said patients experiencing symptoms such as a fever or cough should self-quarantine for at least seven days after onset, or 72 hours after resolution of fever, whichever is longer.
"The majority of people with these symptoms will recover at home in self-isolation and patient care will be guided virtually or by phone by our healthcare teams," Jordan wrote.
Both Sentara and M Health Fairview still have the ability to test high-risk patients for COVID-19 inside their hospitals. Patients still need to call the hospital prior to arrival to receive instructions.
At UW Medicine in Seattle, by contrast, drive-up testing is still in full force.
The academic health system opened a drive-thru testing site for employees on March 6 that continues to see 40 to 80 people per day, said Dr. Seth Cohen, medical director of infection prevention and employee health for University of Washington Medical Center – Northwest. It opened a second drive-thru test site for patients on Monday.
Unlike Minnesota and Virginia, which are early in the epidemic, Washington state has increased its testing capacity and is now able to test more liberally, Cohen said. UW Medicine still does not recommend testing young, generally healthy people with mild forms of the illness, but does want to test people in high risk groups, such as those over 60 and people who are immunosuppressed, such as pregnant women.
"And I would put healthcare workers on that list," Cohen said. "We're just being very aggressive in trying to make sure our workforce stays healthy."
Mayo Clinic is expanding its drive-thru COVID-19 test sites. The Rochester-based health system launched drive-thru testing in its hometown during the week of March 9, and has since expanded the service to its Arizona campus as well as more sites in Minnesota, including Albert Lea, Austin, Mankato, Owatonna and Red Wing. In Wisconsin, Mayo has set up sites in La Crosse and plans to open sites in Eau Claire, Menomonie and Rice Lake this week. To be tested, patients must first be approved by their primary care providers.