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County, Pardee announce drive-thru coronavirus test site at BRCC

In a partnership with Pardee/UNC Health, Henderson County has set up a drive-thru COVID-19 and influenza testing center for county residents at Blue Ridge Community College, Board of Commissioners Chairman Grady Hawkins announced. The site is the result of a quick cooperative effort direction of the county, Pardee and other community partners, including the Henderson County Department of Public Health, Henderson County EMS and the Mountain Area Healthcare Preparedness Coalition.


“We’re doing it because it’s in our mind the most efficient way to get the appropriate people tested,” said Dr. David Ellis, Pardee's chief medical officer. “We’re trying to set up something that is fast and out of the emergency room, that takes patients out of doctor’s offices, keeps them out of urgent care, because if the virus gets in enclosed spaces the virus spreads.” Directing all potential cases to a single site also limits the number of health care workers potentially exposed to the virus and keeps potentially infected people away from other patients who may be at risk. “Think about somebody walking into urgent care and there’s a couple of people in line at urgent care and before you even get to the front so they can put a mask on you, you’re coughing on two people that are in front of you.”

Ellis called a friend who is an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins and asked for his projection on how long the U.S. would be dealing with the threat. “He said if it follows the same pattern that it followed in China, kind of eight to 10 weeks.”

County Manager Steve Wyatt and Jimmy Brissie had a conversation last week about setting up a screening/testing site. “He said we need a location,” Wyatt recalled. Wyatt called BRCC President Laura Leatherwood, who immediately agreed to offer use of the campus.

“We looked at locations and this one rose to the top, and we’ve been up and running since 2:45 yesterday,” he said. “We were here Saturday and Sunday setting everything up. The people in this community have got a tremendous team working on their behalf. These people at the hospital, the health department and emergency services have been fabulous, the physicians and nurses. Obviously it’s 43 degrees out here now and we’re operating. We're trying to set up some heaters now." The sheriff’s office was providing security. The rescue squad also provided support.

“What we’re trying to do is slow the spread of this, that’s the goal,” Wyatt said. “You’re screened to see if you qualify, in other words, you got symptoms. You drive into a tent — you don’t have to get out of your car — and you’re tested for the flu. The flu test is really quick (about 15 minutes)." If the person tests negative for flu, he or she goes on to the COVID-19 test.

The site saw 29 patients Sunday before announcing the testing site publicly. Because the COVID-19 test takes 2-3 days, the hospital had no information yet on whether anyone had tested positive. Pardee has access to several hundred test kits now and is in ongoing communications with health agencies to ensure a steady supply, said Erica Allison, a spokeswoman for the hospital.


Call before visiting site

The drive-thru site, at 180 West Campus Drive, will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The screening site is set up for community members that are exhibiting symptoms of cough, fever greater than 100 degrees and shortness of breath, and have already spoken with the Pardee COVID-19 Helpline (828-694-8048) to determine if symptoms qualify for flu and / or COVID-19 testing. Please note that no one under the age of 12 will be screened for COVID-19. The Pardee COVID-19 Helpline is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. The Helpline is handling a high volume of calls and ask the public to be patient with the process. 

Patients are being asked to refrain from showing up at the site without first being screened by phone. If a patient meets screening criteria, they will be asked to drive to Blue Ridge Community College and follow the signs for screening. If patients arrive without having met screening criteria, they will be asked to pull out of the line and call the Pardee COVID-19 Helpline.

Once approved to continue, patients will drive through a series of screening stations, the first of which will include additional, more detailed screening questions beyond the initial call and temperature taken. If that additional criteria is met, the patient will pull forward to the next screening station for a flu test. Patients will wait in the car for test results. If the flu test is positive, patients will be provided guidance and/or treatment for in-home care and asked to exit the drive-thru screening site. 

If the flu test is negative, patients will be directed to the third and final screening station for a COVID-19 specimen collection. Staff, using appropriate precautions, will collect specimens on-site. Unlike the rapid flu tests given on site, COVID-19 test results can take several days to be verified. Staff from the Henderson County Department of Public Health will be on hand to offer guidance for self-isolation and symptom management to those who do receive a COVID-19 test. Patients who receives a COVID-19 test will be expected to self-quarantine at home for five to six days while awaiting the results of the test. If and when a case is confirmed, the Department of Public Health will announce.

There is no charge for the drive-thru service. If medication is warranted for flu or to manage symptoms at home, fees may apply. No medication will be dispensed on site. 

As a reminder for the community, if you suspect that you have COVID-19 symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath, you should first:

  • Call the Pardee COVID-19 Helpline (828-694-8048) between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. to determine if symptoms qualify for flu and / or COVID-19 testing.
  • Do not go to the emergency department.Emergency Departments need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs.

If you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 and inform the dispatcher if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. 

For general questions, you can call the UNC Health COVID-19 Helpline at 1-888-850-2684 or the North Carolina Coronavirus Hotline at 1-866-462-3821. All residents are encouraged to continue to follow the precautions offered by the CDC to protect themselves and others from the spread of all respiratory illness, including flu and COVID-19. 

  • Stay home when sick.
  • Avoid contact with people that are sick. 
  • Practice frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use hand sanitizer that is at least 70% alcohol if there is no access to soap and water.
  • Practice safe coughing and sneezing etiquette - utilize a tissue that is immediately thrown away or cough/sneeze into your elbow.
  • Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces with household cleaners. 

“I would like to thank all of our partners, especially the dedicated staffs of Henderson County, Pardee Hospital, Blue Ridge Community College and our Rescue Squad, for going above and beyond the call of duty," Hawkins said in a news release. "This effort went from concept to implementation in less than a week, showing what a dedicated team can accomplish in times of need. Thank you to the doctors, nurses, Emergency Services, Rescue Squad and everyone involved in this tremendous effort.”