A blue sedan entered the parking lot outside UNLV Medicine promptly at 1 p.m. on Monday. A middle-aged woman was the first of many who would drive across town to take advantage of UNLV Medicine’s curbside COVID-19 testing.
Masked medical personnel directed her through a lane of red cones and motioned for her to stop outside a white tent that served as a testing station. Standing outside the vehicle driver’s side window, a certified medical assistant checked the woman’s identification, got her insurance information and took her temperature. The woman was then instructed to blow her nose. Within seconds, UNLV School of Medicine Vice Dean of Clinical Affairs Dr. Michael Gardner reached through the open window, swabbed inside the woman’s nose…and the patient was on her way. Her sample was securely packaged, refrigerated, and later that day would be on its way to Clinical Pathology Laboratories (CPL’s) testing center in Texas.
Patient number one was granted one of the hard-to-come-by tests because she met the Centers for Disease Control’s criteria for testing by displaying upper respiratory symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing up blood, or having direct contact with a coronavirus case. She was given an appointment only after speaking with personnel in the UNLV Medicine Call Center, where UNLV School of Medicine students are volunteering to verbally screen each caller.
Testing more than a thousand members of the public is a big undertaking, and UNLV Medicine’s staff is already busy during this health crisis. But the decision to go forward with public testing was an easy one according to Dr. Gardner, who oversees UNLV Medicine's 17 clinics.
“Patients are incredibly frustrated because they don’t know where to get tested. This will not only help those people, it will give health authorities in Southern Nevada a better idea about how many people actually have COVID-19. By conducting the tests curbside, we can test a high number of people faster, and since the patient doesn’t have to leave their car, it limits exposure to others. They’ll be informed of their results in 5-7 days.”
Dr. Gardner recently learned he could obtain 1400 test kits from CPL and immediately began planning logistics.
Arrangements were made with Metro and UNLV Police for traffic control and security. Tents and generators were rented. Power cables were strung into the parking lot, UNLV School of Medicine’s Information Technology Department connected UNLV Medicine’s medical record database to computers in the parking lot. Multiple decisions were made about traffic flow and staffing, how each test would be administered, stored and transported and of course, there was the call center, whose personnel would be responsible for screening each caller.