Covid testing

Workers at Roanoke Rural Health Clinic prepare their drivethrough testing station for Friday's test day. The clinic administered 87 tests in four hours.

Roanoke Rural Health Clinic conducted drive-through coronavirus testing Friday, but the work stemming from those tests has only just begun.

Dr. Samantha Baggett is the clinical practitioner who oversees the clinic, and she was a driving force behind securing the tests and setting up the drive-through station to administer those tests.

"It was in partnership with the Alabama Department of Public Health with Regional Medical Center," Baggett said. "Regional Medical Center owns us, and we are one of several rural health clinics that they have spread across this area. They were able, within our corporation, to get 200 tests from the Alabama Department of Public Health."

Before Friday limited testing supplies had forced Baggett to send most of her patients elsewhere to be tested for the virus.

"They have been doing these drive-through testing sites all over different areas in Anniston, and we just voiced our need and the impact, that we felt like the virus is here, and we were just low on resources for testing, and they were able to provide us with those tests," Baggett said.

Testing took place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, and Baggett's team performed a total of 87 tests in that time.

"I think there would have been more, but we could only test until 2 o'clock because we had to deliver them to the state laboratory at a certain time on Friday before they closed in Montgomery," she said. "That was the reason behind it being sort of a short window of testing."

Testing was open to people with a wide range of reasons for finding out if they were infected. Anyone showing symptoms, workers at healthcare facilities and even employees of places like Walmart that have high levels of potential exposure were tested. Baggett said most people who drove through Friday were local, but some came from out of state.

The tests were free of charge, and clinic workers also handed out masks to everyone who drove through.

All of the testing took place outside the clinic building, and people being tested did not have to get out of their cars. Workers at the clinic followed strict protocols to keep themselves out of harm's way and to maintain the integrity of the test swabs once they were completed.

"It's a very specific procedure of how to swab, but then also how it's packaged," Baggett said. "We can only package 7-10 tests in a box, and they have to be on ice."

Those packaging requirements mean that the 87 tests from Friday will not all be processed at the same time. Baggett and her team made a point to communicate that to everyone that came through.

"They will not all come back at the same time," she said. "We tried to make sure that we really educated people on the fact that just because your cousin got swabbed the same day you did doesn't mean your test will be back [at the same time]."

That's because the laboratory does not necessarily group the test boxes by location once they receive them.

"So we had 8-10 boxes that went out, and when they arrive at the laboratory they're also getting 8-10 boxes from other places," Baggett said. "So they pick a box and start testing. It's not necessarily that our facility is going to get all at the same time."

Test results generally take 3-5 days to return to the clinic here, so Baggett is hopeful to have all the results by the end of this week at the latest. That's when the real legwork begins of letting people know their results and, if they test positive, providing the necessary information and/or care that is needed.

"I'm anticipating the next few days to be extremely busy just with follow up from what we did last week," Baggett said.

There are no definite plans for another drive-through testing day at the clinic, but Baggett said she is open to doing it again as needed. In the meantime, the clinic now has more testing supplies and will be able to administer those tests as needed on a case-by-case basis.

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