On May 12, when an official drive-up COVID-19 testing site opened on the side of Morgan Care Pharmacy at 30th and P Streets in Georgetown, there was one client, according to a volunteer pharmacist on duty. The next day, a handful showed up. By noon on Thursday, May 14, there had been double that — and the appointment schedule was full for the rest of the day.
The tests for the disease caused by the coronavirus are free of charge for those who register at doineedacovid19test.com and qualify, according to Michael Kim, co-owner of the Morgan’s and Grubb’s pharmacies in the District. But those who want to be tested have to either be a health care worker or exhibit symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, a fever, chills, muscle pain, a sore throat or a new loss of taste or smell.
No doctor’s referral is required. Those who want to be tested fill out a questionnaire online and then are given a choice of appointment times between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays.
The tests are self-administered. At the appointed time, the patient pulls into a marked parking area. There are test administrators at the site.
On May 14, when The Georgetowner visited the site, a trained pharmacist and an assistant were on hand. Wearing medical gowns, gloves and face coverings, a health care professional approaches the car and asks for the windows to be rolled up. He or she then places a sealed package containing a probe and a vial on the window and steps back.
The person to be tested takes the package and opens it behind the closed window. Following a demonstration by the assistant outside, he or she proceeds to insert the probe deep into one nostril, turning it a couple of times to make sure to get a good swab, then does the same thing in the other nostril. When finished, he or she puts the probe into the vial, locks it shut and signals that the test is completed. After the assistant places a large covered box next to the window and steps back, the person tested drops the package into the box, closes the car window and is done.
“The test is not painful, but it is uncomfortable,” the volunteer pharmacist at Morgan Pharmacy told The Georgetowner. “But we want to make sure we get a good sample.” The box of completed test packages is sealed at the end of the day and shipped to a diagnostic site in California. Those who were tested should receive the results by email within three to five days.
“If the test is positive, and depending on the severity of the symptoms, the patient should notify their health care physician to decide on the next step — usually either isolation at home or hospitalization,” the pharmacist said.
The website infrastructure for doineedacovid19test.com and laboratory services are provided by eTrueNorth, a Texas-based health care technology company.
“Once in a while, a patient may show up with such severe symptoms that we may recommend they go immediately to an emergency room,” the volunteer pharmacist said. “Those include severe coughing and difficulty breathing and weakness and fatigue, making it difficult for the patient to stand or walk. Signs of low oxygen levels include blue fingertips, blue lips and overall paleness.”