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New COVID-19 Testing Site Opens In Parma

Rite Aid COVID-19 testing center at 5795 State Rd., in Parma. [Marlene Harris-Taylor / ideastream]
Rite Aid COVID-19 testing center 5795 State Rd, Parma [Marlene Harris-Taylor / ideastream]

A new COVID-19 drive-thru testing center opened today at the Rite Aid on State Street in Parma.

People have to preregister, however, to take advantage of the free public testing, Rite Aid officials said.

The cost is being covered by money allocated by Congress in the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, said Jeff Muszynski, Rite Aid regional pharmacy leader.

The registration process on the Rite Aid website asks a series of screening questions to determine if someone is eligible to be tested.

“Right now, most likely to be eligible are people with active symptoms or at high risk,” said Bryce Norman, the company’s regional pharmacy leader for the Cleveland area.

Those symptoms include fever, chills or a cough. The website also asks a number of other screening questions such as if a person has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, if the person is a first responder and if they have other high-risk health conditions, among others.

“We are testing as many people as we can. We have a lot of people marked as eligible,” Bryce said.

Rite Aid expected to test 125 people on Monday, the first day of testing in the Cleveland area, Bryce said. The available testing slots are already full for Tuesday, but the pharmacy chain is hoping to ramp up to testing 400 people per day by Wednesday, Muszynski said.

“We have locations going active today in the Toledo area and in Cleveland,” Bryce said

Rite Aid also plans to open additional Northeast Ohio sites on Wednesday in Akron, Canton, Youngstown and Erie, Pennsylvania.

Rite Aid officials are calling the proceedure “self-swab testing” because those being tested are handed a swab by the pharmacy officials and asked to collect the sample themselves.

“Once you have an appointment you come into our check-in tent and those pharmacists are going to walk you through the entire process,” Bryce said.

The new drive-thru testing site is part of  the plans from the Trump administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to involve private companies in increased testing capacity across the country, Muszynki said.

The Parma location was chosen in part based on recommendations from the White House coronavirus task force and because the parking lot is large enough to handle the flow of cars.

“We picked Parma because it’s pretty centralized location to everybody – easy access to the majority of Cuyahoga County and surrounding counties for people who need to come and get tested,” Bryce said.

Many urban Rite Aids do not have large parking lots, so it’s difficult to operate this type of testing in those locations, Muszynski said.

The sites will be open for testing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, by appointment only.

Hospitals in the Cleveland area also continue to offer some COVID-19 testing but in a limited capacity.

University Hospitals drive-thru testing site at the Landerbrook Health Center in Mayfield Heights is still operating, UH officials said. In order to be considered for testing, however, patients must have a referral from a UH doctor, and display symptoms of the virus. They must also have underlying health risks that make them vulnerable.  UH is also offering testing to residents and employees of high-risk congregate living situations, such as nursing homes, officials said.

Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth continue to focus testing resources on patients in their hospitals who have symptoms and are ill. Both hospitals also offer testing to health care workers treating patients, officials said.

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