Montgomery County opens first drive-thru COVID-19 testing site


April 28, 2020, 1:40 p.m. | By Joy Xu | 3 months, 1 week ago

White Oak and other testing sites to test 100 patients a day


On Tuesday, April 7, Montgomery County opened its first COVID-19 testing site at White Oak’s Maryland Vehicle Administration’s (MVA) emissions testing site. The site is currently open for testing every Tuesday and Thursday. Other regions in Md. followed suit with a Baltimore site in Pimlico and others across the DMV area.

Photo: Coronavirus testing lab (courtesy of Creative Commons).

According to the Washington Post, the sites were “designed to pull people away from emergency rooms and doctor’s offices and provide an alternative site.” The drive-thrus are reserved only for people who have a written order from their doctor, have an appointment through the state’s online system or are frontline workers. As of April 18, there are eight testing sites across the state, with patients having to receive a referral by a physician, make an appointment through the state’s online system and confirm an online ID number with a photo ID on-site, according to Bethesda Magazine.

County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said that the White Oak testing site aim to test roughly 100 patients a day on the two days it is open during the week. “It’s impossible to say what the county’s daily testing capacity is or how many kits are available, because there is sometimes a shortage of materials needed to gather specimens from patients,” Gayles said.

County Executive Marc Elrich stated that the first Montgomery County testing site in White Oak is an initiative to fight the broad lack of adequate testing capability due to lack of resources. “While our test supply continues to be very limited, it is important to have this process up and running. We are obviously in competition with everywhere else in the country … in terms of the equipment that’s available,” Elrich said.

When actually at the drive-thru testing site, each patient remains in their car. County and state medical employees will verify the patient’s identity and collect a patient sample with a nasal swab. The process takes roughly 10 minutes, according to USAToday

The collected sample is then placed into a sterile container and sent to a state medical lab to be tested. In the labs, a chemical is used to convert cells on the sample into a liquid. Scientists then use a machine to compare the patient’s RNA with the coronavirus RNA to determine if the patient has tested positive or negative. Patients will receive their results in five to seven days. 

The drive-thru testing sites are only a small part of the initiative the state and nation is taking to slow the spread of the COVID-19. Hospitals in Silver Spring and Germantown will test patients in emergency rooms, but patients must contact their primary-service provider and call the hospital beforehand. The National Guard set up a screening and testing location in the Washington Redskins’ stadium last week.

Last updated: April 28, 2020, 1:40 p.m.


Tags: COVID-19 coronavirus

Joy Xu. Hi! My name is Joy, and I'm a junior staff writer. Aside from writing articles, I enjoy playing violin for pit orchestra and making desserts for my friends and family. During the school year, I run Blair's DECA club, and I participate in many business-related … More »

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