© 2023 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cleveland Clinic And University Hospitals Revise Coronavirus Testing

Cars lined up at Cleveland Clinic drive-thru testing center [Marlene Harris-Taylor / ideastream]
Cars lined up at Cleveland Clinic drive-thru testing center [Marlene Harris-Taylor / ideastream]

Updated at 10am on Thursday March 19, 2020

Officials at Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals are revising how people can use their coronavirus drive-thru testing services. 

The two health systems partnered to offer drive-thru testing at two locations, one near the clinic’s main campus at the W.O. Walker Center, 10524 Euclid Ave, in Cleveland, and the other at the UH Landerbrook Health Center in Mayfield Heights.

That partnership is being modified. After initially indicating patients could go to either location with a doctor’s order for drive-thru testing, hospital officials switched that guidance on Wednesday.

Cleveland Clinic patients over the age of 61 should go to the Walker building and UH patients should seek testing at Landerbrook.

Both sites have been inundated with people seeking testing and there were many people who waited in line for hours, Cleveland Clinic officials said.

“We have had tremendous demand both at Landerbrook and at the Walker center,” said Dr. Robert Wyllie, chief of medical operations at Cleveland Clinic.

There were IT problems on Tuesday that made it difficult for clinic patients who went to the UH site, and some were turned away.

Cleveland Clinic officials shut down testing early Tuesday afternoon at the Walker building because they had reached capacity. The clinic has capacity of 500 people per day and when the line gets back up past that they close the line, Wyllie said.

“The system was overwhelmed. We had many more orders than we thought. We’ve actually run over 2,000 tests since we opened up the Walker and the Landerbrook sites,” he said.

The high demand for tests, combined with concerns about a national shortage of the swabs used to collect the samples from patients, prompted clinic officials to move to limit testing to people who are severely ill in the hospital. The other high priority group is people who are over 61, with other complicating health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, said Wyllie.

UH officials have not yet announced a change in testing policy. Instead, the decision is up to individual doctors, who are receiving ongoing guidance from hospital leadership, according to University Hospitals' Dr. Keith Armitage. He said testing capacity is limited regionally and nationally right now, and that means that doctors should only test people who are symptomatic and at high risk or already in the hospital. 

UH spokesperson Jeannine Denholm indicated that about 65 patients per hour were being tested at the Mayfield Heights location this week. 

The change in the clinic’s policy to focus on older people is leaving many of its patients in limbo. Many younger people already have doctors notes green-lighting the testing at the clinic drive-thru site. Those orders will not honored at present because that group is not considered high priority, said Wyllie.

 “All of those people will receive a phone call. We probably won’t be able to get in touch with everybody, but we have a whole team making those calls now to try to reassess whether they really need testing or not,” he said.

Both the clinic and UH have moved to setting up appointments for testing to prevent people sitting in line for hours.

Cleveland Clinic’s move to prioritize testing services was echoed by state and county health officials on Wednesday. Speaking at a news media briefing on Wednesday, Cuyahoga County Health Board Medical Director Dr. Heidi Gullett said the highest risk patients and those hospitalized are currently being prioritized for testing.

County officials also announced a new coronavirus help line that will be managed by the United Way 2-1-1 help center. The number is 1-855-711-3035.

Marlene Harris-Taylor
Marlene is the director of engaged journalism at Ideastream Public Media.