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This page offers all of Delaware Public Media's ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it is affecting the First State. Check here regularly for the latest new and information.

ChristianaCare drive-through could dramatically increase number of Delawareans tested for COVID-19

The number of Delawareans tested for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus disease, could rise dramatically after ChristianaCare health system offered free drive-through testing to people experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus disease, Friday. 

 

As of Friday afternoon, the state has tested just 72 individuals for the virus.

ChristianaCare collected specimens from 536 people with symptoms of COVID-19 at the drive-through testing event at the Wilmington Riverfront Friday. 

The specimens will be sent to an out-of-state commercial lab for testing. ChristianaCare officials expect results in 2 to 5 business days. 

Specimen collection involved a swab in both nostrils, while customers sat in their cars. Customers were first screened with a symptom questionnaire. 

Terri Corbo, who works in clinical services at Christiana Care, explained why only people with symptoms would be tested. 

“It’s important to know that our offering today is for those who are experiencing symptoms— those that you would commonly associate with the flu, such as fever, chills, cough, sore throat or difficulty breathing,” she said. “We are not offering the service today to those who do not have symptoms, because the test has not been validated on those who aren’t ill.”

Testing is also happening at the state’s public health lab in Smyrna and through LabCorp, a commercial lab, with a physician's order. State officials said Thursday that with the addition of the commercial testing, Delaware has capacity to handle current testing needs. 

 

However, the state is not incorporating commerical testing results into its official count yet. 
 
"The private labs are just coming online, and therefore, we do not want to report inaccurate numbers as they work out their processes," Stacey Hoffman, who works in communications at the Department of Agriculture but is helping field media inquiries a about the state's response to COVID-19, said in an email. "It's important to note that we are constantly evaluating our statistical reporting format for this situation and the format may change as the situation evolves."

Dr. Kristine Diehl, a family practice physician in north Wilmington and a member of the Medical Society of Delaware’s Public Health Subcommittee, sees primary care physicians’ role in the new coronavirus outbreak as “helping people prepare for what’s coming.”

Her practice is implementing a protocol under which they will prioritize people with more severe COVID-19-like symptoms, like a high fever and difficulty breathing, for testing. 

“If you become sick with flu-like symptoms, we are advising a lot of our patients that some of these milder symptoms could be corona, and that you need to be at home,” said Diehl. “We probably won’t see a lot of those patients in the practice or maybe encourage that they get tested— because they’re mild … Unfortunately it doesn’t meet exactly what patients want to do— because people want to be seen, they want to be tested, they want to be diagnosed, for our personal sense of accuracy.”

Diehl says this policy is to help slow the spread of the virus— and protect people in waiting rooms, for example, from getting infected. 

“When we have more people who are sick in the community going into places where they will be exposing other individuals to the illness, we spread the infection even more,” she said.

 

Professor of global health and Africana studies at Delaware State University Donna Patterson has called for an increase in testing nationwide. She says Delaware is doing well— and calls the ChristianaCare drive-through event a “great step.”

“We’ve seen some of that in Colorado, we’ve seen that in South Korea, and that’s been really beneficial to getting a mass number of people tested,” she said. “Both getting them tested, getting them tested quickly, but also limiting some of the contact between medical professionals and those getting tested.”

Beebe Healthcare announced Friday it plans to host a drive-through COVID-19 screening event on March 14, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bayview Medical Center in Lewes. 

Beebe’s screening will be open to people above the age of 18, who either have symptoms of COVID-19, have travelled outside of the country during the past 14 days or have been exposed to a known case. Beebe is directing participants to bring a form of identification and any insurance cards.

As of Friday, the state reports only four tests in Delaware have come back positive — but 32 are still pending.   

The state’s insurance commissioner reminded Delaware insurers earlier this week that they are required to cover testing and telemedicine services related to COVID-19. 

 

This story has been updated to include information about Beebe Healthcare's planned screening event and updated screening numbers from ChristianaCare.

 

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