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UW sets up drive-thru clinic for coronavirus testing

UW Medicine has established a drive-through testing clinic to screen its employees for coronavirus.

UW Medicine has established a drive-through testing clinic to screen its employees for coronavirus. It began March 6 at the UW Medicine-Northwest campus in Northgate.

Employees that need a coronavirus test make an appointment, and drive up to an area of the parking garage. There, workers in full protective gear collect two nasal swabs through the car window. One screens for the flu and common cold, the other for coronavirus.

UW Medicine said there are several benefits to this procedure, including convenience and limiting exposure to a potentially infected patient.

“Our mission is two-fold, one to protect our employees, the other to protect our community,” said Dr. Seth Cohen, Medical Director for Infection prevention at UW Medical Center – Northwest. “And what we’ve learned from viruses like SARS and other coronaviruses is that they can really rapidly disseminate through a hospital and cripple a healthcare workforce, and we’re trying to stay ahead of that and prevent it from happening.”

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Testing is currently limited to UW Medicine employees, and UW students who are told to get the test. Dr. Cohen said UW Medicine plans to expand testing to first responders like EMS or firefighters later this week, in addition to opening a second clinic to provide tests for UW Medicine patients.

They’re currently doing 40-50 tests a day, he said. As of Monday, they had not identified any positive tests for coronavirus.

He welcomed any other providers able to scale up like UW Medicine. 

“We’re only going to get on top of this outbreak if we know who is affected, and are able to quarantine people rapidly,” Cohen said. “And I think particularly with our hospital, and our patient population being so vulnerable, we want to make sure that our staff who are on the front lines are being safe, and they’re not transmitting this infection to our hospital patients.”

RELATED: Real-time updates: 22 coronavirus deaths among more than 160 cases in Washington

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