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Drive-Thru Testing: A Security Checkpoint, Nurses in Hazmat Suits, and a Nasal Swab

Jennette Barnes

As coronavirus testing began at a drive-through site at Cape Cod Community College, it was a slow start on a rainy morning, with only one car arriving during a 90-minute period.

The testing area is set up in a parking lot along the college’s ring road.

Standing in the drizzle behind a row of barricades, Patrick Kane, senior vice president for marketing communications at Cape Cod Healthcare, explained the process.

"When you arrive on site," Kane said,  "you'll be greeted by a security officer, a policeman, and a person in a hazmat suit."

Once the appointment is verified, the patient's car will move into a line and approach a completely enclosed yellow tent where nurses are waiting in hazmat gear. A nasal swab will be administered to patients as they sit in their cars.

"If you don't have a doctor's order and a scheduled appointment, you will be turned away," Kane stressed. "No exceptions."

Samples are frozen and sent by courier to a state or private lab. No actual tests are done on site.

Patients receive four pages of instructions on self-quarantine.

The site's operation is a collaboration between Cape Cod Healthcare and Barnstable County.

Sean O'Brien, of the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment, said staff are well trained in this system already.

"This concept is nothing new," O'Brien said. "These are things that we've done during flu clinics back in 2009 and 2010. Many of the towns here in Barnstable County are experienced at doing this. It just works out very well because it minimizes contact."

Testing is available to anyone on Cape Cod and the Islands with a doctor’s order. There is no cost. 

People experiencing serious symptoms who do not have a primary care provider, may visit the triage tents located outside of Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital for screening.

Cape Cod Healthcare has more information on coronavirus testing here.