Starting next week, Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart will start new drive-thru centers in Destin and Panama City to provide community testing for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Clinical staff from Ascension Medical Group will set up drive-thru sites to collect nasal swabs from people who have symptoms of COVID-19 respiratory disease. The testing center in Destin will be located at Destin Medical Park, 36500 Emerald Coast Parkway, on the Okaloosa-Walton county line, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.
In Bay County, the team will provide swab tests to eligible persons on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ascension Medical Group's office at 725 Ohio Ave., Lynn Haven.
"We are excited and grateful to have this opportunity to expand COVID-19 testing to serve Oklaoosa, Walton and Bay counties," said Justin Labrato, chief operating officer of Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart. "More testing is needed to better understand the spread of the virus in the community and break the chain of transmission. Testing identifies individuals with the disease, gets them treatment if needed, and isolates them from others so the virus does not spread further."
The two sites will use the same practice model used successfully at Ascension Sacred Heart's center in Pensacola. People who want to get tested must first call (850) 746-2684 in advance to get an over-the-phone screening to determine if they meet criteria for a swab test.
In Pensacola, Ascension Sacred Heart began its first drive-thru center on March 16. Since then, the center has obtained swabs from approximately 3,700 people. About 5 percent of those people have tested positive for the virus.
The two centers will test persons who have COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. A priority will be testing healthcare facility workers and first responders with symptoms, and persons at highest risk for life-threatening complications from the virus.
After swabs are collected at each site, they will be packaged and shipped to an independent lab for analysis. Lab results usually take about five days.
Testing is provided at no cost to patients. While the test center will bill insurers, there is no out-of-pocket cost for people with or without insurance.
"Expanded testing is an important development in our area's fight against novel coronavirus," said Roger Hall, president of Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast. "But testing is just one part of the battle plan. To stop the spread of this highly contagious virus and prevent our hospital from getting hit with a large surge of infected patients, we need the community to support our front-line hospital staff and save lives. Everyone can do that by frequently washing their hands, staying home and following the advice of the health experts."