Drive-through coronavirus testing sites are opening across the country, in an effort to reduce exposure at hospitals and doctor’s offices. One of these locations opened last week in Arlington, Va., allowing motorists with symptoms to be tested without leaving their vehicles.
An electronic sign board was positioned at the site’s entrance, an otherwise empty rain-slicked parking lot. Messages alternated between “WINDOWS UP” and “BY APPOINTMENTS ONLY,” as cars slowly approached at five-minute intervals. Rows of bright orange traffic cones led motorists directly to a lone health worker wearing blue scrubs, goggles, gloves and a face mask. A thin yellow raincoat kept her dry. Her colleague, dressed similarly, stood 20 feet to the side under a white canopy. An unseen police officer watched from his cruiser, just beyond.
The masked-and-goggled worker stepped forward as each vehicle approached. “Keep your window up,” she would command through a small bullhorn positioned inches away from the car’s side glass, then leaned in close to hear what the driver had to say. After a few short minutes of this one-sided exchange, a bright green sticky note was affixed to the cars’ window frame. Occasionally she would step back into the tent to confer with her colleague. Offering a loud “Have a good day!” through the bullhorn, the worker waved each vehicle through another row of cones, around the corner of an office building and out of sight.
In partnership with a local hospital, the county is offering the COVID-19 tests for Arlington residents, county and school system employees and patients of the hospital who are experiencing symptoms. Patients must have an appointment as well as a written order for the testing from a licensed provider before arriving at the drive-through site. Test results are made available within a week, during which time the patient is expected to self-quarantine.
Arlington has one of the highest numbers of reported cases in the state which have risen dramatically since its testing site opened on March 18.