Tompkins County residents now have the opportunity to get tested quickly for COVID-19 at a drive-through facility in Ithaca.
In collaboration with the Tompkins County Health Department, the Cayuga Medical Center opened up a testing facility on March 16 at the previous location of Women’s Health of CMA at 1020 Craft Road in Ithaca.
“Once we started having cases in that area, we identified that as a way to help centralize our testing, to off-flow the emergency room and the urgent cares, which had been inundated with people of mild illness seeking testing,” Dr. Doug MacQueen, an Infectious Disease specialist at the Cayuga Center for Infectious Disease, said.
The facility is open for testing between noon to 6 p.m. from Monday through Friday. MacQueen said the facility will also be open for testing on Saturday, but there are no set hours at the moment.
In order to receive testing, one must first contact their primary care doctor if they are having the symptoms of the virus – fever, cough, shortness of breath. The provider will then decide if the individual meets the criteria for testing. If that is the case, the provider will then submit an electronic testing order, thus allowing the individual to get tested.
After receiving permission from a primary care provider, one can drive up to the facility during the hours of operation and get tested right then and there without getting out of the vehicle. The test is simply a nasal swab. MacQueen said it could change to a throat swab, depending on the amount of supplies available.
The nasal swab test done at the facility is free of charge. Samples sent off to the labs for testing should also be covered based on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s directives this month.
On March 2, Governor Cuomo required New York health insurers to waive cost sharing for COVID-19 testing, which includes emergency rooms, urgent care and office visits. Any testings sent to be conducted at the state’s Wadsworth Laboratory will be free. State residents receiving Medicaid will not be expected to pay a co-pay for testing related to the virus. All telehealth visits will also be free of co-pays.
So far, MacQueen said about 50 people have been tested at the facility since its opening on Monday. MacQueen said there is a limit to how many people can receive testing at the facility, but he is unsure of the exact limit that is in place.
Once an individual has been tested, he or she must remain isolated at home until the results from the test come back, which takes anywhere between two and four days, according to MacQueen. If the results come back negative, the individual will no longer have to isolate him or herself. If the results come back positive, the county health department is then notified.
“We work with the health department and notify them of every patient that we test and also of all the test results,” MacQueen said. “For a positive result, the health department would take over from that point and contact the patient who’s tested positive, doing a contact investigation and ensuring that they remain isolated.”
Currently, MacQueen said there are no plans of opening up another drive-through facility in the county. MacQueen mentioned that urgent care is also an option for folks, especially if they are experiencing more severe symptoms.
“We have been, over the last couple of weeks, testing people, and continue to test people in the urgent cares and the ER here,” he said. “People can still go there if they need a medical evaluation as well. This site is more for, ‘My symptoms are mostly like a bad cold or a moderate flu-like illness. I don’t need anything to figure out that I’m stable or for treatment. I just want to get this COVID test and I have met those criteria.’”