COC drive-thru testing center scheduled 250 for the first day, hopes to increase in coming days

Volunteers direct cars during the COVID-19 drive thru testing at College of the Canyons on Wednesday, April 08, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Officials overseeing the opening of the Santa Clarita drive-thru coronavirus testing center Wednesday said they had scheduled for 250 people to receive tests on the first day, and they plan to increase that number as the days roll out.

Pono Barnes, a public information officer for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said the first day for each testing site isn’t exactly a “soft open, but we reassess at the end of the (first) day.”

“If we can handle more, the goal is to increase our output, make it more efficient and get the kinks worked out,” said Barnes.

The drive-thru test is free of charge and administered at the College of the Canyons parking structure in Lot 7 at the Valencia campus from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, according to Stephanie English, 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s Santa Clarita Valley field deputy.

Various factors need to be accounted for at each unique drive-thru site, Barnes said, in order to increase the amount of testing they can do, such as traffic congestion and the number of cars they can let in at a given time.

Volunteers direct cars during the COVID-19 drive thru testing at College of the Canyons on Wednesday, April 08, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

The drive-thru sites opening up around the county range in number of tests administered from 100 to 500 a day, Barnes said. “I believe the Santa Clarita one was scheduled to do 250 a day. I know that site was able to accommodate a larger driver pattern, and I think it’s one of the larger ones.”

And while other sites sometimes have two types of testing procedures, both nasal and oral, Barnes and English both confirmed Wednesday that the tests administered at the Santa Clarita site, as of now, are all oral tests.

“The nasopharyngeal swab, that one has to be administered by a trained nurse or skilled nursing personnel, and is a little bit more labor intensive,” said Barnes. “So, a majority of our sites are just the oral swab because it’s self-administered.”

The self-administration aspect to the test, Barnes said, allows for the person to stay inside their car and maintain social distance with on-site staff. The test is handed to the patient through the car window and the onsite staff, wearing personal protective equipment and maintaining social distancing, instruct the patient on how to do it.

The patient then packages the test and continues driving to a bin where they drop it off to be sent to a lab. The whole process, Barnes said, takes five to 10 minutes and results return in three to five days via email.

Those who take the test are asked to self-isolate until their tests return. Positive tests are followed up with a phone call and additional instructions.

The tests are being administered by health care professionals from Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, Barnes said. On site there are also city and county officials, along with Los Angeles County Fire Department personnel and lifeguards, Barnes said.

In order to be tested, English re-emphasized on Wednesday, you must meet the symptom criteria for COVID-19 and/or have been quarantined due to exposure to the virus. If you meet that criteria, you can sign up at Los Angeles County’s website and choose your time slot.

“I don’t think we’re going to see any other (drive-thru) testing sites in Santa Clarita, because we’re trying to distribute them countywide so that all the communities have access,” English said on Wednesday.

Volunteers direct cars out of the parking lot during the COVID-19 drive thru testing at College of the Canyons on Wednesday, April 08, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

English said the county had set up four new testing centers in the county, including the one in Santa Clarita. She said the decision to open one in Santa Clarita was not due to the SCV being worse off in terms of number of cases compared to other communities.

“We’re just trying to distribute the testing sites countywide so that we can confirm the positives … and if someone is positive they’ll have confirmation of that and we can do the contact tracing for the people that they were around,” English said.

English added that the site would be open indefinitely.

“We’re going to see how it goes in the future, and the goal is to have it up and running, seven days a week, if at all possible.”

For more information on how to register for a drive-thru test, visit https://covid19.lacounty.gov/.

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