With the rise of COVID-19 cases across the state, representatives from University Medical Center and Covenant Health addressed how the two institutions will test Lubbock residents.

Covenant Health Regional Chief Medical Officer Dr. Craig Rhyne and UMC Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mike Ragain discussed this topic and more during a news conference at 3 p.m. Thursday.

At the time of the conference, there were three confirmed COVID-19 cases in Lubbock, and multiple people are being tested for the virus, Rhyne said. There are multiple factors to consider when providing testing for a community.

"We have worked with the City of Lubbock Health Department," he said. "UMC and Covenant are in constant communication to try to make sure that our preparatory efforts are coordinated."

In addition to promoting social isolation, Rhyne said Covenant has set up drive-thru clinics for COVID-19 testing. These drive-thru clinics will be set up at Grace Clinic at 4515 Marsha Sharp Freeway, Health Plus at 7601 Quaker Ave., Northwest Clinic at 611 North Frankford Ave. and Southwest Medical Park at 9812 Slide Road.

Along with Covenant, UMC will set up drive-thru screening clinics at the UMC parking lot near the Texas Tech softball fields, Ragain said. There will be nine shoots where testing will be administered for people who meet the criteria for testing.

"Now, first phase of the screening is (a) flu test," he said. "As I said, we already launched this afternoon, and I was told before I came over that we mostly received flu. No surprise. That's still prevalent and it looks very similar to COVID."

If a person is not positive for flu, Ragain said staff might test for strep throat if indicated and then move onto COVID-19 testing.

"So, the testing criteria is the same as we've been talking about all along, so fever, cough, respiratory symptoms," he said. "We do want to know about travel."

People getting tested will be asked for demographic information and a phone number, Ragain said. If one has insurance information, he or she is encouraged to bring it with them.

"We're told from this lab vendor that they will reach out to patient to do the billing," he said. "We're not going to do the charge of the lab. That's from the vendor."

Regardless, Ragain said one needs to conifer the testing process to understand when one will get results.

"So, you will not get a result today if you get swabbed. Right?" he said. "That's got to be sent to Austin. The turnaround time is between 24 and 72 hours depending on what's going on with their lab."

After getting tested, one will be asked to isolate themselves at home, Ragain said.

"Now, I want to update everyone that we do have access to a statewide COVID test," he said, "and so CPL is a lab in Austin that provides this test, and we're using them to help offload some of the volume."

"Unless a patient is in severe respiratory distress or has severe exercise intolerance, they don't need to be in the hospital," Rhyne said. "In fact, being in the hospital is the worse thing we can do."

One needs to call his or her doctor first, as the health department implemented screening criteria that needs to be met to be tested, Rhyne said.

"Right now, the only real capability we have for testing is with the health department, and we have other commercial labs coming online that will offer the opportunity to do testing, albeit the cost, but it takes a time, usually three to four days, to get those results back, whereas the health department has done a great job of getting those results back in usually anywhere from 12 to 36 hours," he said.

With faster tests, Rhyne said medical institutions minimize the need to use valuable personal protective equipment, such as gloves, masks and gowns.

Along with drive-thru clinics, changes to visiting polices have been made at both institutions.

UMC and Covenant staff have worked to synchronize the same amount of visitors per patient, Rhyne said.

"We have limited the number of visitors, outside visitors, to our patients to one visitor per patient," Rhyne said regarding both UMC and Covenant.

Both institutions also are limiting visitors of 17 years or younger, Ragain said.

"We also have moved forward with cancelling elective procedures at this time," he said. "We will reassess that in two weeks. The rationale behind that is that those patients use resources that we may need for a surge of illness."

For those who show respiratory symptoms, Ragain said one can utilize telemedicine.

"So, there is an app, MyTeamCare Now, download it from the App Store, both platforms," he said. "You can log in and have doctor visit wherever you are, and if you're not feeling that bad, I would recommend doing that."

Other changes at UMC include, closing UMC Urgent Care Clinic in the Medical Office Plaza II and screening all visitors at UMC for temperature.

Regardless, Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope said one should not show up to the Lubbock Health department wanting to get tested.

"And if your physician's office sent you there, let us know," he said.

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