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Division of Public Health unveils new testing guidelines, Walgreens partnership

Sophia Schmidt
Delaware Public Media

The Delaware Division of Public Health released a new COVID-19 testing plan designed to ensure easy access to testing.

The new testing plan released Wednesday focuses on increasing testing availability in the First State. DPH wants people to have quick and convenient access whether they show symptoms or not.


The plan features a partnership with Walgreens to open up on-demand drive-thru testing at pharmacies around Delaware. Starting with one pilot location in each county, residents can go any day of the week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and get tested for coronavirus.


The pilot locations will be in Middletown, Dover and Bridgeville. People can drive, or walk, up to the drive-thru at the pharmacy and request a coronavirus test, regardless of their symptoms or insurance. The pharmacist will then give them the test kit and instructions to gather the sample themselves.


The tests from this new partnership will be sent to DPH’s labs.


Medical Director Dr. Rick Hong said turnaround time for these tests can be up to 5 days through the public labs, but he’s hoping DPH can speed up processing times.


“There are other factors in play, it’s not necessarily just the processing of the specimen it’s also the delivery of the specimen to the lab. And then registering the specimen into our system also takes time. So it’s not just the processing that’s taking that long period of time it’s the other factors as well.”


Hong notes DPH is prioritizing processing tests from hospitals and tests from those who are symptomatic.


While testing can take a while, Hong says on average they are receiving test results back in 2 days.


It’s important to receive test results in a timely manner. The longer the wait between taking the test and the results, the less useful the test becomes because of the possibility to spread the disease while waiting for the results to come back.


Hong says the best bet is through the public labs. The commercial testing companies have a large backlog of their own. They take in tests from around the country, not just Delaware.


DPH says it wants to focus attention on populations underserved by testing, such as low income communities, people of color and the eldery.


Hong says the new plan should help the state reach that goal.


“We do understand the barriers that are out there to gain access. So we know that they may not be able to, for instance, drive to certain testing sites. So we have identified certain communities and have set up testing sites to serve the population better.”


Hong adds the state’s testing plan will evolve regularly with advances in testing and how we understand the virus.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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