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Here's what you've been waiting for: Testing for coronavirus expanded in McLean County

Here's what you've been waiting for: Testing for coronavirus expanded in McLean County

BLOOMINGTON — Some Central Illinoisans with symptoms of the new strain of coronavirus and who have been frustrated with limited testing for COVID-19 may get relief beginning Saturday.

Testing will be available to people who meet certain criteria, beginning Saturday, under a pilot program that is a collaboration of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), McLean County Health Department, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Illinois National Guard.

Drive-through COVID-19 testing begins 9 a.m. Saturday at the McLean County Fairgrounds, 1106 Interstate Drive, Bloomington, and will continue there until 5 p.m. or until supplies run out, said Jessica McKnight, McLean County Health Department administrator. Testing will continue seven days a week beginning at 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. or until testing supplies run out, she said.

Testing would be for health care workers with respiratory symptoms and a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, first responders with respiratory symptoms and a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, people 65 and older with respiratory symptoms and a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher and patients with underlying medical conditions with respiratory symptoms and a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher.

"We're happy this testing site is here," McKnight said Friday afternoon at the fairgrounds. "We know (lack of) testing is a frustration."

McKnight said up to 250 tests may be administered each day but she didn't know for how many days the testing would continue.

In a prepared statement earlier Friday, McKnight said: "We see so much value in being able to increase testing capacity in Central Illinois through testing sites like this one. We know that access to testing in our area and across the country has been a source of frustration and confusion. And while testing will not be an instant solution for COVID-19, we hope it will allow us to have a more accurate picture of what is happening in our community and help us in our fight to stop the spread of the virus."

People who have taken fever-reducing medicines within six hours of arriving at the site will not be eligible to be tested. Testing criteria may be expanded later depending on the available of testing supplies.

Upon arrival at the fairgrounds, people will be required to remain in their vehicles, said Dion McNeal, McLean County communications specialist.

Testing is limited to four people per vehicle and each must be seated at a working window. People will be required to show photo identification and health care facility employee or first-responder badge.

Medical personnel will check each person's temperature with a no-touch thermometer and use a swab to obtain a sample from each person's nose. The test is a nasal swab, McKnight said.

After the test is done, people will be informed how they will get test results, McNeal said.

People who don't meet HHS testing criteria will be asked to return home to monitor their symptoms and contact their health care provider.

People 65 and older with symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath) should limit the number of people in their vehicle.

HHS will provide staff from the United States Public Health Service to operate the site with assistance from the Illinois National Guard, state and local emergency management and public health officials.

About 50 soldiers and airmen with the Illinois National Guard will be working at the testing site, Maj. A.J. Ruggieri, Illinois National Guard public affairs representative, said at the fairgrounds as preparation work began.

Members of the 182nd Airwing of the Illinois Air Guard out of Peoria will be taking the samples because they are doctors, nurses and medical technicians, Ruggieri said.

Members of the Illinois Army National Guard 3637th Maintenance Company out of Springfield will be helping with logistics, Ruggieri said.

Ruggieri also did not know for how long the testing site would be open.

"Our mission is to test as many people as we can," Ruggieri said.

Because of anticipated demand, wait times are expected. People experiencing medical emergencies are urged to call their doctor or go to a hospital emergency department.

Contact Paul Swiech at 309-820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech.

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