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story.lead_photo.caption Aaron Kliethermes, RMA at Capital Region Medical Center, displays what is in the COVID-19 testing kit. CRMC is now offering drive-thru COVID-19 testing 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on the south side of Capital Region PhysiciansPrimary Care Clinic located at 1014 Madison St. Photo by Julie Smith / California Democrat.
For more news about the COVID-19 coronavirus, access the News Tribune Health section.

The COVID-19 test sites at St. Mary's Hospital and Capital Region Medical Center in Jefferson City are operational.

The St. Mary's Hospital site opened at noon Monday.

The CRMC site held a "soft opening," said Lindsay Human, the hospital's director of marketing.

The health care providers ask that people not show up at their test sites without doctors' orders.

The St. Mary's Hospital site is at the Health Plaza East entrance to the hospital, located at 2505 Mission Drive. Site hours of operation are tentatively 11 a.m.-4 p.m., based on volume

CRMC's mobile testing site was made possible through its affiliation with MU Health Care. MU Health Care offered its incident command trailer and supplies. It is located on the south side of the Capital Region Physicians — Primary Care Clinic, 1014 Madison St. Hours will be 7 a.m.-7 p.m., and a physician's order is required.

Health organizations have learned valuable lessons from previous emerging infectious diseases, such as Ebola, SARS and influenza, Jessica Royston, marketing and communications manager for SSM Health, said in an email to the News Tribune.

She said Alexander Garza, chief medical officer for SSM Health, which is the St. Louis-based owner of St. Mary's Hospital, served within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and helped develop a strategy in response to the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, she said.

"SSM Health continues to coordinate its efforts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local authorities," Royston said. "We have comprehensive plans and protocols in place for treating illnesses like this one. Our caregivers are following CDC guidelines in using protective equipment, such as respirator masks, gloves and gowns, to prevent spread of the virus."

Anyone who feels sick and has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (primarily fever of 100.4 or higher, cough and shortness of breath) is encouraged to complete a free online evaluation or call their primary care provider. In order to be tested, patients must have a physician's order.

People without a primary care provider who have symptoms are also asked to call CRMC's COVID-19 triage line at 833-763-0444.

SSM Health offers a free online evaluation at ssmhealth.com/covid19. You do not need to be an existing SSM Health patient to do the online evaluation. The virtual visit begins with an online assessment of each patient's symptoms and potential exposure. Next, the patient will be virtually connected with an SSM Health Medical Group provider for evaluation and care, as appropriate. If testing is recommended, patients will be directed to the nearest SSM Health testing facility.

One of the staff members who will be working at St. Mary's Hospital's drive-thru testing site is Sharon Shepherd, a registered nurse who is manager of the hospital's clinical education department. Shepherd said in an email to the newspaper that she volunteered for the duty in the testing site.

"It's a great opportunity to provide a valuable service to our community, not only to obtain specimen collection but also to provide accurate information on how they can protect themselves, their families and the community from the coronavirus," Shepherd said.

Nurses are trained to obtain samples from the upper part of a person's throat, behind their nose, she said. However, staff at the hospital received additional training to perform the task at the drive-thru site "to ensure the process was streamlined and efficient for patients."

During the procedure, the health care professional inserts a long, cotton-tip swab into the nose toward the throat. The swab is rolled a few times to ensure an appropriate specimen is obtained, Shepherd said. The specimen is placed in a culture tube and sent to a laboratory.

"Patients will be contacted in six to eight days with the results," she said.

However, the time can change based on volume or the availability of other labs, she said. Patients are asked to self-quarantine while they await results.

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