Sentara suspends drive-thru COVID-19 testing due to low supply of tests

Published: Mar. 18, 2020 at 11:29 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

After two days of operating drive-thru COVID-19 screenings at three hospitals in eastern Virginia, Sentara is suspending the drive-thru test option due to a lack of supply of tests.

In an update posted on Wednesday, Sentara said their test supply is running low after "two successful days of COVID-19 drive-thru screening and testing," causing them to temporarily close the drive-thru testing locations as of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18.

Sentara said they're actively working with state and federal officials to obtain more testing supplies and will provide updates on


If you have flu-like symptoms and believe you may have contracted COVID-19 due to travel to an affected area or exposure to a person with a possible or confirmed case, you're asked to contact your primary care provider or the Sentara COVID-19 Call Center (1-833-945-2395) before visiting a Sentara Healthcare location.

If it's not an emergency, doctors say don't go to an emergency room.

Sentara still has the ability to test high-risk COVID-19 patients inside hospitals, though the drive-thru sites have been suspended.

In the Shenandoah Valley, Sentara RMH had no drive-thru testing site but had tents set up outside their Emergency Department to screen patients.

The tents are technically an extension of the emergency department's services. According to a hospital official, the tents were set up to provide for additional capacity and to keep any patients with possible coronavirus symptoms separated from general emergency department patients.

At all Sentara locations, tests will only be run for people who meet Sentara's COVID-19 testing criteria.

According to Sentara's website, when they screen patients, they make decisions on COVID-19 testing based on the following criteria:

• If you have 2 of the 3 following symptoms: a fever of at least 100.4 degrees, cough, and shortness of breath.

• And you've either traveled internationally or to an area with a known COVID-19 outbreak or been in contact with someone who was confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19

If you don't meet those criteria, Sentara encourages people to stay home and continue to follow the CDC's recommended prevention methods.

Sentara RMH encourages anyone who suspects they may have been exposed to COVID-19 to speak with their medical provider to find out if they meet testing requirements or schedule a virtual visit first through MDLive or a Sentara Video Visit.

When WHSV reached out to RMH on Monday to ask how many testing kits they have on hand, hospital officials told WHSV, "We continue to monitor our testing supplies and are managing and triaging across our local sites of care, as well as across Sentara, according to the needs of our organization."

Hospital officials told WHSV on Tuesday that they're working with local health officials to monitor testing kits but would not elaborate on their testing capacity at a local level.

At this time, only one positive case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the Shenandoah Valley out of Virginia's 51 confirmed cases. That was

who developed upper respiratory symptoms that progressed over a few days to a pneumonia with high fever. Health officials investigated that patient's contacts in the days leading up to diagnosis and reached out to anyone affected, but would not publicly identify where the patient had traveled in the area out of respect for the patient's privacy.

Sentara RMH officials told WHSV on Monday that they had no other known positive cases as of that time.

All Sentara hospitals have suspended all routine visiting at its hospitals until the spread of COVID-19 is no longer a threat to patients, staff, and the community, with the following exceptions:

• Obstetric patients may have one partner and one birth support person accompany them.

• Nursery and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) patients may have 2 parents, legal guardians, or caregivers who must remain in the room for the duration of the visit.

• Patients who are at the end-of-life may have 2 visitors.

• Patients with disruptive behavior, where a family member is key to their care, may have 1 visitor.

• Patients who have altered mental status or developmental delays (where caregiver provides safety) may have 1 visitor.

• Minors under the age of 18 may have 1 visitor, either a parent or a guardian.

• Patients visiting the Emergency Department, may have 1 person with them only during their ED stay.

Sentara has also prohibited all visitors under the age of 12. Any visitors who do come in through the exception list must stay in the patient's room only for their entire visit and must leave the hospital immediately after leaving the patient's room.

Sentara also now has a Sentara COVID-19 Call Center at 1-833-945-2395 to answer questions seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. The hotline is not used to schedule appointments or provide testing recommendations, but will answer questions about signs and symptoms based on CDC guidelines and provide info on Sentara policies.

For any patients who test presumptive positive for the virus, Sentara hospitals all have dedicated respiratory units and individual rooms, where patients will be treated by essential staff wearing full protective gear.

In line with the Surgeon General's recommendation, Sentara also has a plan for when to limit, reschedule, or transition elective surgeries to another location

What to know about coronavirus

Most people don't suffer much from COVID-19, but it can cause severe illness in the elderly (One of the 2 Fairfax City patients has been identified as being his 80s) and people with existing health problems.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can cause mild to more severe respiratory illness. In a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can cause death, particularly among those who are older or who have chronic medical conditions.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person. COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

If you have a respiratory illness that includes a fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath and either had contact with someone with a confirmed case of the virus or traveled to an area with confirmed cases of the virus, Sentara says to take these steps:

1. Call your healthcare provider to determine the safest screening method for you. If you are a Sentara patient, this may include a video visit.

2. Please consider a virtual visit to determine if you need further screening or testing. Many insurance plans, including Optima Health, will cover the member cost of testing for COVID-19. Options include Sentara Video Visits or MDLIVE.

3. If you have a respiratory illness that includes a fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath AND you meet

for COVID-19, AND you do not have a primary care physician, cannot participate in a virtual visit, or a visit has recommended further screening or testing for COVID-19, visit your local emergency department. Please call in advance so that infection prevention precautions may be taken to protect you, other patients, visitors and employees.

To lower the risk of respiratory germ spread, including COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health encourages the following effective behaviors:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Avoid contact with sick people.

• Avoid non-essential travel.