As the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has developed into a full-on epidemic in the U.S., new drive-thru testing sites are popping up around the country. While driving through a bunch of people in lab coats seems frightening, the entire process looks as straightforward as getting a flu shot.
Right now, our greatest protection for limiting the spread of the virus is to be socially distant and stay at home, limiting our exposure to others. At the same time, as cases rise nationwide, hospitals and local governments have already started to struggle to manage the capacity of virus patients, which makes screening for who may have it not only more difficult due to the volume of potential cases, but also dangerous for those who may not yet have it.
That’s why new drive-thru testing sites have begun to spring up across the country. Some require a referral to receive the test, but more and more sites are opening their drive-thrus in parking lots to anyone who believes they have symptoms of Coronavirus.
The idea is to limit exposure to other people as much as possible by keeping those receiving tests in their car and not in waiting rooms, only rolling the window down at the final stage of the process to receive the test swabbing from someone in heavy safety gear.
Many locations have a multiple-step process with various stages, usually at least one for appointment confirmation and an identification check, and then the testing stage. It would appear a lot of these locations have some sort of tent or structure to provide some privacy for the swabbing, though not every site will.
Here’s a video from Project Baseline, the healthcare research organization from Alphabet (Google’s parent company), about its drive-thru testing procedure in California:
Many details of the different drive-thru testing sites across the country will vary, however. CNBC covered what a 12-hour shift at a drive-thru site in New York looks like, the Washington Post covered the more-complicated process of drive-thru testing in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C., and NPR has a quick segment on the surprising effectiveness of these drive-thru programs so far which you can read or listen to.
If you’re interested in getting a test at a drive-thru site near you, your best bet is contacting your regular care provider or a local hospital for a recommendation or referral, or researching ways to contact the organizations behind the testing sites in your area.