North St. Louis Gets Its First COVID-19 Drive-Thru And Walk-Up Testing Site | St. Louis Public Radio

North St. Louis Gets Its First COVID-19 Drive-Thru And Walk-Up Testing Site

Mar 31, 2020

North St. Louis’ first COVID-19 testing site opens Thursday in the Carr Square neighborhood. 

Affinia Healthcare's 1717 Biddle St. location will begin drive-thru and walk-up testing in its parking lot for individuals who are experiencing symptoms and need to be tested for the virus.

Kendra Holmes, the center’s chief operating officer, said having a COVID-19 testing site in north St. Louis is vital because African Americans in low-income areas often don’t have access to necessary health care. 

“North St. Louis city is an area that has a high prevalence of chronic disease and health disparities. We know that individuals who have diabetes and hypertension are predisposed to have more complications to COVID-19, so the need is great in north St. Louis city,” she said. 

Affinia Healthcare is partnering with the St. Louis Regional Health Commission to provide free COVID-19 testing for those who meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention qualifications.

How does it work?

Officials are directing residents to first contact Affinia’s pre-screening hotline. Each caller will answer questions about their health and symptoms that could indicate if the person has COVID-19. If the caller meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirements, they will be given an appointment date to report for testing.

Once medical professionals perform the nasal swab at the testing site, the results will be sent to a private lab for results. Individuals should expect to hear results within three to four days. 

The Biddle site will conduct four tests per hour and will increase its appointments available as the need persists. Holmes said the mobile site is well-stocked in testing kits and should not swiftly run out of materials. 

Patients who tested at the Biddle location will receive COVID-19 educational material and hand sanitizer.

With the rise in the number of medical professionals contracting the virus, Holmes said Affinia Healthcare has increased sanitation practices at all of its facilities around the region and is fully stocked in personal protective equipment for staff working in its facilities and at the mobile testing site. 

The Biddle location frontline staff receive training on ways to properly protect themselves and individuals during testing.
Credit Kendra Holmes

St. Louis Alderman Brandon Bosley, D-3rd Ward, said it’s not surprising that north St. Louis was one of the last areas to get a testing site. In normal times, the community does not have adequate health care resources, he said.

“Think about it, when most investors get money, they want to put their businesses in the most affluent areas, so that is not any different with north St. Louis,” Ward said. “Folks that are under-resourced are always thought about last.”

Ward said it is disheartening that a high-risk group is just now getting access to testing in their own community. Now he wants African Americans to know this resource is finally available.

Both Bosley and Holmes urge African Americans to take the pandemic seriously. Black people, they say, are at higher risk for contracting the new coronavirus because they have higher rates of health conditions than other races. 

“Seeing that people are dying in New York and Illinois, [African Americans] need to be the first ones to take it seriously, because if not, then we will be the first to get the virus,” Bosley said. “This is not the police coming for us this time; it's an actual virus that you can't see.”

The north city pre-screening hours are 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Appointment-only testing is 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays.

Residents in the area can call 314-833-2777 to begin pre-screening.

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