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Cleveland Clinic, UH Patients Flock To Free COVID-19 Testing Site

Cars circled the block near University Circle where a new COVID-19 testing site opened Saturday. [Jenny Hamel / ideastream]
Cars line up for drive-thru COVID-10 testing near University Circle. A sign warns a doctor's order is required.

Cars lined up around the block at the intersection of 105 th Street and Carnegie Avenue, as drivers, many of whom wore face masks, waited for entry into a COVID-19 drive-thru testing site.  A sign read, “Testing requires a physician’s order prior to entry.”

The Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals opened the site Saturday to offer free tests for Clinic patients. UH patients are eligible beginning Monday. The two hospital systems have capacity to administer roughly 500 tests daily and see results within a day. The site will be open 7 days a week.

University Hospitals Chief Operating Officer Robyn Strosaker said once both hospital systems had developed the ability to test for the coronavirus in-house, they decided to create a separate testing site so patients have a convenient place to get tested at a distance from others.

“We wanted them to be able to get swabbed and get the test run without needing them to come to the emergency departments,” said Strosaker. “We've got right now with COVID-19 and flu, frankly, still going around, it’s ideal to keep patients with those kinds of symptoms away from one another. So we're not spreading either flu or COVID-19 in a crowded emergency department waiting room, and we did not want to have overcrowding in our emergency departments.”

Governor Mike DeWine announced 26 total confirmed coronavirus cases in Ohio as of Saturday afternoon. Earlier in the week, state health officials said there were  likely more than 100,000 people in Ohio carrying the virus, but until Thursday, the number of coronavirus tests had been limited and testing procedures restricted by the state and the Centers for Disease Control.

Strosaker said the drive-thru testing site at the W.O. Walker building on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland is likely the first of multiple sites that will be providing free tests.

“We are learning a lot from our colleagues on the West Coast who have been dealing with this a few weeks longer than we have. There are models similar to this in Seattle that we wanted to learn from,” said Strosaker. “So once we knew that we had the ability to run tests on our own and increase our capacity to run tests, we wanted to get something up as quickly as possible so that we could offer these tests to our community.”

On Thursday, Governor DeWine ordered all K-12 schools closed for an extended three week spring break. The social distancing, he said, would help stop the spread of the disease. Virtually all Ohio colleges have moved to distance learning. 

Strosaker said getting people tested quickly and in a manner that keeps them isolated from others will help safeguard the larger community.

“I think it's important to understand that the most important thing we can do right now to protect the health of our community is social isolation,” said Strosaker. “So, you know, both the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals are very pleased with the social isolation that's taking place because we're aligned that that's the right thing to do to just flatten the curve of spread. We need to keep people away from one another.”

Jenny Hamel is the host of the “Sound of Ideas.”