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Carroll Hospital offering drive-up coronavirus testing for those with doctor’s referral

Carroll Hospital has set up a specimen collection tent on the third floor of its parking garage to allow patients who have been referred by a physician to be tested for the coronavirus.
Carroll Hospital has set up a specimen collection tent on the third floor of its parking garage to allow patients who have been referred by a physician to be tested for the coronavirus. (Jon Kelvey)

Carroll Hospital is offering drive-up testing for the novel coronavirus, though that testing is only open to individuals who have been screened and referred by their physician.

In a Friday morning interview, Carroll Hospital President and Executive Vice President of LifeBridge Health Leslie Simmons said the hospital has set up a specimen collection tent on the third floor of its parking garage to allow for the rapid testing of those suspected of having the novel coronavirus, but are not yet showing symptoms. Those specimens collected are then sent to LabCorp for analysis, with results taking three to four days.

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“People can drive up to be tested, so it is mobile testing, however, they have to be screened first through their primary care provider, who is then referring them to a LifeBridge telehealth triaging system,” Simmons said. “We are utilizing the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines to determine who is at high risk, and if they meet high risk criteria, then they are referred to Carroll Hospital’s specimen collection tent.”

The hospital tested two patients at the drive-up specimen collection tent Wednesday afternoon, according to Simmons, and while she said she could not communicate the numbers of people tested since then, she added “it’s very safe to say our numbers are increasing daily.” While the tent was initially open from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and then again from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., the facility was opened additional hours, from noon to 6 p.m., beginning Friday.

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The drive up specimen collection tent is, Simmons believes, the first such setup in Maryland. (A Bel Air Hospital was scheduled to debut drive-up testing on Friday.)

“I will tell you that Sinai is practicing their procedures today and hopes to be operational on Monday morning,” Simmons said. “They would be the second LifeBridge hospital doing it.”

Carroll Hospital has set up a specimen collection tent on the third floor of its parking garage to allow patients who have been referred by a physician to be tested for the coronavirus.
Carroll Hospital has set up a specimen collection tent on the third floor of its parking garage to allow patients who have been referred by a physician to be tested for the coronavirus. (Jon Kelvey)

The drive-up tent on the parking garage is different than the tents Carroll Hospital has set up outside the emergency department, according to Simmons.

“That tent is to actually treat patients that are presenting to our emergency department with symptoms, who are actually sick,” she said.

Which led Simmons to the main message she hoped to convey to people in Carroll County: That people with mild symptoms or who are at low risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms from the novel coronavirus should call their doctor or the health department hotline — 410-876-4848 — and avoid flooding the hospital emergency room unless directed there by their doctor.

“The hospitals are going to get to capacity very quickly and we need to make sure we have space for the sickest of the sick," Simmons said. “We erected the tent outside the emergency department because we are concerned we will run out of capacity quickly and the tents will help us manage that to some degree.”

Part of the reason for measures like Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to close Maryland schools for two weeks, and recommendations of social distancing and to self quarantine is because they can help slow the rate at which the coronavirus spreads, keeping the numbers the health care system must treat at any one time lower, according to Carroll County Health Department Health Planner Maggie Kunz. It’s a term called “flattening the curve.”

“Flattening the curve means that we slow the spread of the disease, COVID-19, so that not as many people get sick at the same time,” Kunz said. “When we flatten the curve and slow the spread, we have less cases at one time so we don’t overburden the healthcare system. This allows people who are sick to get the care they need.”

Which is why Simmons, when asked for other recommendations for people concerned about coronavirus, reiterated the recommendations that have been made for weeks: “Wash your hands, cough in your sleeve, stay away from large gatherings and quarantine yourself."

Anyone who thinks they or a family member might be showing coronavirus symptoms can call the health department’s COVID-19 hotline, which is available 8 am. through 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 410-876-4848, or contact their doctor.

Updates on the number of Maryland cases and other important information can be found on the health department’s COVID-19 webpage at cchd.maryland.gov/covid-19/.

As of Friday afternoon, the coronavirus had resulted in 40 deaths in the United States out of about 1,700 people who have tested positive for the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University. The World Health Organization deemed the coronavirus a pandemic Wednesday.

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