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Test on the go: Drive-through COVID-19 testing launches in Houghton

Drive-through COVID-19 testing launches in Houghton

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Zachariah DeYoung, doctor at the Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center,  demonstrates the nasal swab testing method for COVID-19 Wednesday on Greg Peterson, practice manager at UGL. Drive-through testing for the general public launched this week.

HOUGHTON — Drive-through COVID-19 testing has come to the Keweenaw.

Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center (UGL) and the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD) opened a site to the public at the Gates Tennis Center at Michigan Technological University Tuesday. 

Testing had a soft rollout with UGL patient’s over the past week and a half, said administrative director Elise Bur. That has gone smoothly, she said. 

“The whole purpose of opening it up to the public is to start understanding more about how prevalent the virus is in the community and what actions we may need to take as a society opening up to whatever the new normal is going to be,” she said. 

Drive-through testing opens up testing to more people with mild or no symptoms than before, said Kate Beer, health officer for the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department. It also provides an example of how testing could be handled if numbers rise in the western U.P.

“If we have an outbreak, we might want to ramp up testing in other sites, and this will be a model for that,” she said. “It’s not only a benefit now, but it will be a benefit going forward as we look to reopening.”

Most days have had about 20 tests, with a high of 32, said Zachariah DeYoung, a doctor at UGL.

“We’re hoping to get a little more business than that,” he said. “We’re set up for about 60 a day.”

Personnel at the site have been getting a steady stream of personal protection equipment and test supplies, DeYoung said.

Anyone who wants to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms can call 844-947-4854 toll-free. The caller will answer questions about their symptoms. Those are compared to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. If the person is found to exhibit symptoms, they are transferred to a nurse who takes them through a pre-registration process, including getting consent for treatment. 

People must also provide the color, make and model of their vehicle for identification purposes. They then make a date and time for an appointment. The test uses a nasal swab, and lasts a couple of minutes, Bur said. 

“They pull up at their designated time and the physician comes right out to their vehicle,” Bur said. “The test is administered, and then the person drives off.”

The test site will be open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Test results come back in four to six days, Bur said. Tests are sent to one of four labs, depending on capacity: Michigan Tech’s, a state laboratory, Quest and NxGen. 

UGL also plans to open two temporary testing sites. One in Gwinn will run Thursday and Friday, while no date is set for Calumet.

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