Drive-up testing at new site

Medical assistants prepare to collect tests at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte’s drive-up testing site, which opened Monday at the Tracy Sports Complex after several weeks at McKinley Elementary School.

People who want to be tested for COVID-19 start lining up early in the morning at the newest testing site at the Tracy Sports Complex, and by noon, the drive-up clinic has reached its test limit for the day.

The Tracy Sports Complex testing site grew out of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte’s previous site at McKinley Elementary School, where people had been tested for the coronavirus since mid-April. Roza Fray, director of quality management and nursing for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, said that as the need for testing continued into the summer, the clinic had to find a new way to reach the growing number of people who need the test.

She acknowledged that traffic had been backing up as demand for the test grew, but the main reason for the move was to return the campus, which was on loan from Tracy Unified School District, to the McKinley school staff in time for the school year.

She said the sports complex, off West 11th Street west of Corral Hollow Road, has its advantages — including a pathway that leads from the Jefferson Parkway parking lot on the west side of the complex to the Crossroads Drive parking lot, where the pop-up clinic is set up next to the small meeting building on the east side of the complex.

There’s enough room to accommodate dozens of cars that begin to line up well before the clinic’s 9 a.m. opening time. The sports complex also has restrooms that are accessible to people who could end up waiting in line for most of the morning.

“On average, this generally takes about 3 hours,” Fray said. “Some days it’s faster, sometimes it takes exactly 3 hours, so we just work with what’s in front of us day by day.”

She added that city workers were also there to let people know if they were in for a long wait, or if they should come back another day.

“As much as we can mitigate the wait time, we try to be very transparent — this is where we’re at, now we’ve met capacity — so that they aren’t waiting and then get to the front knowing that we’ve met capacity,” she said.

It’s still a drop-in clinic, meaning no appointment is needed, though it’s first come, first served. The clinic can provide on average about 55 tests each day, based on the availability of testing supplies.

She added that testing labs — Quest Diagnostics, in this case — continue to receive increasing numbers of testing kits to process, translating to a longer wait to get results.

“Right now, the lab we are using is inundated, and they have pushed out results for about 14 to 18 days,” she said.

There’s no charge to patients, but people who show up at the site must provide insurance information so Planned Parenthood Mar Monte can bill the insurance companies. The clinic staff will also provide information on how to cover the cost in the event that a patient doesn’t have insurance.

It’s available to people regardless of whether they’re showing symptoms, such as a cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, or fever. Fray said that while some people show symptoms, many do not.

Some are there on referrals from their doctors, others because they’re at high risk of exposure or they think they might have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus.

“Fortunately, we’re not having really sick patients come through the drive-thru,” she said. “I feel like the public, for the most part, they’re hearing the message: If you’re extremely sick, we want you to stay home.”

If someone does appear sick, the staff offers information on how to cope with the illness and at what point they should call their doctor.

Contact Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com or 830-4227.

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