As the national emergency that is the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, drive-thru testing is arriving all across the United States, with the first facility having opened in the hard-hit city of Seattle. This means that more and more people will have access to testing by simply rolling down their windows, getting swabbed, and going home to wait for results.
The government is currently in the process of organizing these drive-thrus with companies including CVS, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart, and while the details get sorted out, I’ve been working carefully with my team to figure out a plan to help. Workstream has decided to provide our platform for free to these organizations, helping them hire for these incredibly important roles.
What do you need to know about these drive-thru test stations?
- Drive-thru testing was initially started in South Korea, and has since been recognized for both its efficiency and its prevention against putting other patients at risk of contracting coronavirus. As of March 15, 2020, more than 10 states in the US have these testing facilities. However, they are currently impeded by lack of supplies and manpower. In Seattle, the University of Washington School of Medicine had to ask for assistance from qualified individuals, and on a separate occasion, ran out of pipettes.
- In a recent press conference, the White House announced that protocols will be in place for testing. Prospective patients will need to go through screening online, where they will answer questions about their symptoms. If they match those of COVID-19, users will then be provided with the location of the closest drive-thru facility where they can be tested.
- There are also other requirements that may be asked of you, depending on the state in which the drive-thru facility is located. For example, in some sites in Florida, tests are done on an appointment-only basis. At drive-thru stations in New Jersey, only people exhibiting coronavirus symptoms will be tested, and you may be asked to present a resident’s ID. In other areas like Spokane, you will need to have a doctor’s referral to be eligible for testing.
- Some people may receive priority testing, such as: those over 65 who show symptoms, health personnel who have had contact with a patient suspected of having COVID-19, and people with underlying health issues or have fevers above 99.6 degrees.
- The brave individuals who are the frontliners at these drive-thru testing sites are state health workers, nurses, and members of the U.S. Public Health Services, who will swab people in their cars and then send the samples off for testing, in as short as just ten minutes.
- Testing at drive-thru stations is free. Although the cost of tests varies, many health insurance companies and Medicare/Medicaid have stated that they would cover the costs of testing. I was also happy to hear that a number of states have agreed to cover the costs without co-pays or deductibles, which is a huge relief to people who do not have health insurance and would not be able to afford the tests otherwise.
- While initially the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and state public health labs were the only ones approved to execute the testing for the new coronavirus, there are now a handful of commercial labs (including LabCorp, Quest, Roche, and Thermo Fisher) that have been approved to test as well. Other labs are not far behind, like Hologic and Abbott, who are ramping up on their existing testing capabilities. Although tests taken at drive-thru facilities still have to be sent out for analysis, meaning results won’t be available for 3-4 days, this increase in labs will still help to diagnose people more rapidly than ever before.
I believe that if we all work together to contribute to the solution, we can make a tremendous difference in slowing, and eventually stopping this epidemic. In the meantime, my team at Workstream is dedicated to helping by offering our service for free for the next three months to all hospitals, healthcare companies, clinics, and coronavirus screening and testing stations.
In the midst of all the chaos surrounding coronavirus, it’s important that hiring workers can be a seamless and efficient process so that we can begin to recover, united together as a society.
Desmond Lim is co-founder and CEO of Workstream, an automated hiring platform for companies hiring hourly workers. He is a graduate of Harvard and MIT Media Lab, former product manager at WeChat, and investor at Dorm Room Fund. He is based in San Francisco and lived in Palo Alto with his wife and two young daughters.