Surrounding talk of re-opening economy, city-parish looks to increase COVID-19 testing
BATON ROUGE – It's been a month since drive-thru coronavirus testing started in East Baton Rouge Parish. Since then, 1,800 people have been tested at the Mid City Community Drive location alone. But city-parish officials say they’re not satisfied yet.
“We’re going to need to increase testing as we start to look at opening the economy,” said Jared Hymowitz, director of the mayor’s Healthy City Initiative.
Hymowitz says testing at the Mid City Community Drive, which is the only site ran under the Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, has gone down.
“We’ve seen a steady decline over the weeks,” Hymowitz said. “We’re doing about 60 to 70 tests every day. We were doing five days a week and an upwards of 200 a day. Now we’re only open Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”
Hymowitz says this is partly due to other private testing sites opening around the parish. He says the goal though is to increase testing and make the testing sites more of a one-stop-shop.
“One of the barriers of our community testing site is that were not connected to a health care professional. We’re asking doctors and physicians across our region to send in their orders, and so the next phase of this would be to partner with federally qualified health centers or other clinicians that can help provide access to the testing,” Hymowitz said.
This would allow a physician to screen a patient on site for different novel coronavirus symptoms and determine if they need to be tested. In order to do this, more tests kits would have to be available.
“We've been able to secure enough test kits for the demand that we have, so we're looking to partner and get more test kits available so that we can start partnering with other clinics and FQHC’s,” Hymowitz said.
Hymowitz says having more test kits early on, may have allowed them to open up additional testing sites around the parish.
“Part of the reason for only opening up one site was one to preserve PPE, because that was in short supply as well as tests. So if there were more kits available we might have been able to test at more locations,” Hymowitz said. "But, I think we adequately served the populations that came. Only in the first week did we turn people away, and they were able to come back the next day. We haven't turned anyone away in weeks."
Discussions between health centers and the state to get a physician on site have just begun.