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Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen reopens for drive-thru COVID testing

A drive-thru COVID testing clinic reopened Monday at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.

The Harford County Health Department is offering the clinic in partnership with University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, Omnipoynt Solutions, Dalex Laboratories, Rover Labs and Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium.

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Omnipoynt Solutions is managing the clinic, according to its CEO, Aaron Poynton, who said his team was prepared for 1,000 cars on its first day.

“Demand is obviously very extreme,” Poynton said. “Many of the people we’re talking to don’t have a lot of options, so this site along with the other sites that the county and the state are setting up is helping to relieve that excess demand.”

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Poynton said similar sites his company is overseeing are handling between 300 and 500 cars per day. Some are coming with symptoms, he said, and others just want to be cleared to go back to work or school.

The clinic is one of several that have opened in the past week under Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to increase testing capacity and reduce emergency room visits during the surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the state. The Maryland State Health Department initially held a one-day pilot testing program at Ripken Stadium in August 2020 and ran a COVID-19 vaccination clinic there from April through June 2021.

The clinic is open to the public for anyone ages 2 and older, including uninsured residents.

Once they get to the front of the line, participants will be asked to scan a QR code with their smartphone or fill out information to register. Each person will take both a rapid test and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. The rapid test will give them a result in five minutes, Poynton said. “They’ll have the results delivered to their phone before they pull away.”

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The PCR test goes to a laboratory and takes about 48 hours. Results will also be delivered to their phone once the lab has processed them.

A long line of cars streamed out of the stadium parking lot down Long Drive and onto Route 22 early Monday as people waited for the clinic to open. Raul Torres came from Cecil County to be tested and counted at least 100 cars ahead of him when he arrived at 8:05 a.m.

Torres said his wife was exposed to COVID-19 at a New Year’s Eve party and they have visitors from out of town who are staying at a hotel. “They’re stuck at the hotel and we can’t get together until I test negative,” he said.

By 10:20 a.m., Torres was at the front of the line. “Since they officially opened at nine o’clock, things have been moving along pretty smooth,” he said.

Torres was one of many people in the line who were asymptomatic but wanted to confirm they didn’t have coronavirus.

“We have had colds but no symptoms, as far as fevers, shortness of breath or the like,” said John Powell of Abingdon, who got in line around 7:30 a.m. “It’s more just the peace of mind to make sure that it’s not what you hope it’s not.”

Vickie McNear, left, and John Powell of Abingdon listen as Mark Boegner of Omnipoynt Solutions gives them instructions for their COVID tests at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen Monday.
Vickie McNear, left, and John Powell of Abingdon listen as Mark Boegner of Omnipoynt Solutions gives them instructions for their COVID tests at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen Monday. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

That’s why the clinic is performing both a rapid test and a PCR test on each person, said Ronya Nassar, spokesperson for the Harford County Health Department. “A lot of people just want the rapid test. They want to know right there,” she said. “But if you do have a negative rapid test, we always suggest, especially if you do have symptoms, to go for that PCR test as well.”

Nassar said that if you’re not symptomatic, rapid tests can report a false negative. “We always suggest that people follow up with the PCRs, which are definitely the better test for showing you more accuracy,” she said.

Nassar and Poynton said the first day of the clinic ran smoothly. Vickie McNear of Abingdon, a passenger in Powell’s car who was waiting to be tested so she could return to work Tuesday, offered the clinic organizers a piece of advice. “I do have a suggestion,” McNear said. “Since the wait is so long, I think they should have some porta potties out here.”

The COVID-19 testing clinic at Ripken Stadium will be open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Harford County Health Department is also operating additional testing and vaccination clinics.

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