McLaren Macomb Hospital doing limited drive-thru virus testing

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

Starting Saturday and going on indefinitely, McLaren Macomb Hospital in Mount Clemens is screening people in their cars for the coronavirus. 

From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., the hospital in Macomb county is doing curbside COVID-19 testings for people with "serious complications" only to prevent the spread of the virus throughout the hospital, said Dr. James Larkin, the director of emergency medicine at McLaren. By 1 p.m. Sunday, 61 COVID-19 tests were administered. Three have come back negative, the hospital said.

"I want to be clear, this is not routine testing just to see if someone has it," Larkin said on Sunday. "We are trying to reserve testing for those who have seriously ill symptoms."

The general symptoms of coronavirus are fever, coughing and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. However, Larkins said anyone who is experiencing these symptoms should stay home in self-isolation, continue washing their hands, and take Tylenol or Motrin to control their fevers — not come in for testing. 

In efforts to not overwhelm the hospital staff and due to a limited number of virus test kits, Larkin recommends only those who are experiencing "severe respiratory distress and signs of lack of oxygen" to come to the drive-thru testing. 

"We're trying not to make this a drive-thru for the well and worried," Larkin said. "Most people just need supportive care and it can be done at home. There aren't any treatments so the hospital doesn't have anything special unless you need oxygen."

Hospital staff wearing goggles, gloves, masks, and gowns screen people in their cars by asking questions about their symptoms. If their symptoms are "mild," they're sent home. If the staff deems someone's symptoms as "severe," they are tested.

So far, the hospital has screened 55 people and tested 15 with a nasal swab. Only three results have come back and they were all negative. Other tests are pending.

The hospital does not actually test for the coronavirus on-site but instead does a nasal swab to test for the flu. If the swab is negative for the flu, it is then sent to the state lab in Lansing for COVID-19 testing. This process takes one to three days. 

"Eventually I think you'll be able to see testing at different sites. ... We hope that as more test becomes available, it'll take off some of the pressure of who wants to be tested," Larkin said. 

Beaumont Hospitals in Royal Oak, Troy, Farmington Hills, and Dearborn started limited COVID-19 drive-through testings for Saturday and Sunday. Officials did not disclose if the curbside testing would be continuously offered.

Michigan's total number of confirmed cases continues to rise, jumping from two on Tuesday to 33 by Saturday night. 

On Friday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order to restrict any visitors that are not necessary for medical care in all health care facilities in the state. Whitmer also ordered all facilities to dent entrance to any individual with COVID-19 symptoms or risk factors. The restrictions will remain until April 5.