CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — Mercy opened a drive-thru testing center at its virtual care center in Chesterfield amid coronavirus concerns.
The site is exclusively for patients who have a fever of at least 100.4 degrees and respiratory symptoms including cough or shortness of breath. Anyone seeking a test must call Mercy’s COVID-19 Clinical Support Line at 314-251-0500 before arriving.
“We will only provide screening for those who meet these requirements because testing prior to the appearance of symptoms can result in a false negative,” said Dr. Keith Starke, Mercy’s chief quality officer. “It’s critical for our communities that we screen those with the highest risk.”
Patients must call the clinical support line to be screened and if appropriate – proceed to the test collection site. Nurses wearing protective gear will meet patients at the drive-thru. They'll use a swab to get a nasal specimen. Officials warn that might be slightly uncomfortable. Nurses will give patients instructions from there.
Mercy will then send the sample to a designated lab, the state health department or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gov. Parson also announced Friday afternoon that state health officials are working with Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Missouri to expand lab capabilities.
According to the press release from Mercy, results may take several days.
Tests will cost $100. Most insurance companies are willing to cover the costs, officials told 5 On Your Side.
Mercy Virtual Care Center is located at 15740 S. Outer Forty Rd. A spokesperson said the plan is to open the test collection site on March 14. The hours are expected to be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day until further notice.
The site plans to have two nurses on staff and two nurses available for backup if the line gets too long. Security also will be on site.
“This drive-through testing site will prevent unnecessary exposure to our patients and caregivers in our hospitals and clinics,” said Donn Sorensen, Mercy’s executive vice president of operations who is leading COVID-19 response across Mercy. “By directing at-risk people to this site, Mercy will limit the traffic to our hospitals and clinics. The safety of our patients, visitors and co-workers is of the utmost importance.”
Mercy is working closely with BJC HealthCare and SSM Health, as well as the state and local health departments, as additional sites are opened across St. Louis. Mercy also plans to open additional test collection sites across Mercy’s four states.
While COVID-19 is spread from person to person, more than 80% of the patients who develop it will only become mildly ill. The concern is for patients with underlying medical conditions and the elderly, who are more likely to need hospital-level supportive care.
Any severe weather or severe weather warning will require Mercy to stop drive-thru test collections to allow patients and workers to seek shelter for their safety. Mercy will contact all patients whose appointments are affected to reschedule their test collections.