Officials Ask Public To Get Tested With Or Without Symptoms
By now you are probably aware that a drive-through COVID-19 testing site has been organized and opened at Gramercy Elementary School
In an effort to increase testing throughout the State of Louisiana, the Louisiana National Guard, who is running the testing site, recently partnered with St. James Parish Government, St. James Parish Hospital, the St. James Sheriff’s Office and the Gramercy Police Department to get the fully drive-through testing site up and running.
The site opened last Wednesday and 381 tests were administered the first three days. The site was closed last Saturday and Sunday due to inclement weather and was reopened on Monday.
On Monday, the News Examiner-Enterprise interviewed Louisiana National Guard Major and Battalion Commander Nicholas Acosta, whose unit is based in Lake Charles but is here in Gramercy to run the site, to discuss the testing site and what those who choose to be tested should expect when they arrive and go through the testing process.
Until further notice, the Gramercy drive-through site will be open Monday through Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and each day the site can administer up to 250 COVID-19 tests per day.
When asked to touch on what people contemplating getting tested should know, Major Acosta highlighted the following:
*The only requirements are that a person be a Louisiana resident, be over 18 years of age, and have a Louisiana ID (drivers licence, Louisiana ID, Student ID, etc.).
*Patients do not have to have active symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, shortness of breath) to receive a test.
In fact, health officials are now recommending that residents be tested for data collection purposes and to possibly identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus.
*The Gramercy site is a 100% Drive-through testing site, which means patients who come through leave their windows completely up almost the entire time and never exit their vehicles at any point.
Some may be fearful of being tested because of possible exposure to the virus, but rest assured that all precautions are being taken at the site to make the testing experience as safe and as easy as possible.
*Upon arrival, the patient is greeted by a worker using all appropriate personal protection equipment (mask, gloves, face shield, etc.) to protect both the worker and patient.
*The patient is asked to place their Louisiana ID on the window and the worker fills out the necessary paperwork to get the patient registered. The worker also speaks to and provides the patient instructions on how to self-administer the actual test/nasal swab, which is done at the next stop.
*Next is the swab site, which is where a test kit is placed on a tray on a table and the patient drives to the table and briefly rolls window down to retrieve the test kit. No one is close to the vehicle when the driver takes the test off of the tray.
It should also be stressed that this test is a basic, very easy nasal swab and not the invasive and often painful nasopharyngeal swab/culture used early on to detect COVID-19.
“I know a lot of people were scared about the nasopharyngeal test,” said Major Acosta. “But this test is only a swab of the tip of the nose and is much more comfortable and much easier. I know a lot of people were scared to get tested because they thought we would swab all the way back in their head.”
The patient takes a swab/Q-tip and inserts it inside each nostril (roughly one-inch) and swirls/turns the swab around for 15 seconds. After the sample is collected, the swab is placed inside a test tube, a cap is screwed on, and the tube is placed back on the tray and the test is complete.
*The test kit and tray and table are wiped clean before and after each patient goes through the swab site to prevent contamination at any step.
“If anybody touches anything it gets wiped down,” said Major Acosta.
*Those who get tested also receive an envelope with several new masks that can be used at their leisure and all tested will receive a phone call when their test results come back, which are advertised to take three to five days.
*The testing site is located at Gramercy Elementary School, 601 East Second Street, Gramercy, LA 70052.
Exit Main Street (LA 641) onto Golden Grove Street and follow signage directing you where to proceed.
Thus far those who have been tested have said the site is user friendly and is very organized.
“The reason the site is running so smooth is because of the St. James Parish Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the Sheriff’s Office and local police,” said Major Acosta. “All the local parish officials have been amazing to work with. They go above and beyond the call of duty and it has been an absolute pleasure to work with all the Parish employees.”