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At Peninsula hospitals, Sentara suspends drive-thru virus testing / March 19, 2020

Sentara Healthcare has suspended drive-thru testing for the novel coronavirus at three of its hospitals in the Eastern Peninsula region due to a shortage of test kits.

Sentara, the state’s largest hospital system, on Monday began drive-thru testing for pre-screened patients at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach, Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center in Williamsburg, and Sentara Edinburgh in Chesapeake. The Peninsula Health District is home to one of Virginia’s worst outbreaks of COVID-19 with 15 confirmed cases, including 13 in James City County alone.

The suspension of drive-thru tests in the Tidewater area comes as cases of the disease continue to rise in Virginia. On Wednesday, the Virginia Department of Health updated its reporting to show 77 confirmed COVID-19 cases, up from 45 on Sunday. The number of people tested statewide stood at 1,278 as of Wednesday.

Sentara has taken preliminary steps to offer drive-through testing at Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital in South Boston, setting up tents outside in the hospital parking lot. However, health system officials said — prior to the discontinuation of testing at its three hospitals in eastern Virginia — that there were no immediate plans to expand the drive-thru testing regimen to South Boston.

Sentara shut down the three active drive-thru test sites at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The sites won’t be reopened until more test kits become available. Sentara stressed that it continues to have enough test kits on hand to test patients at high risk of contracting the virus — defined as:

» those who have two of three symptoms (cough, fever of 100.4 or higher, and shortness of breath)

» have recently traveled internationally, or gone to an area with a COVID-19 outbreak

» are 60 or older or have a serious health condition

Before individuals have been accepted for drive-thru screening, Sentara required them to go through a three-step process that begins with a written questionnaire and ends, for qualifying candidates, with them being administered either a nasal or oral swab and then given information on how to protect themselves while awaiting their test results.

Based on their answers to the initial questionnaire or after a secondary screening, anyone who does not appear to be infected with the virus was to be sent home.

Sentara has also set up a COVID-19 call center to answer questions about coronavirus symptoms and resources. It will operate daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The number to call is 1-833-945-2395. Sentara spokesperson Danya Bushey stressed that the call center will not schedule doctor or testing appointments, provide testing recommendations, or give out test results.

It takes about five days for test results to come back from the lab. Sentara Healthcare is developing an “in-house” test for coronavirus and hopes to have it available within the next month.

In a statement announcing the suspension of drive-thru testing, Sentara said it is continuing its efforts to secure more kits for the days ahead.

“We know that COVID-19 is a critical concern for our communities, so we are actively working with state and federal officials to get more testing supplies,” Sentara said in a statement.

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