Embry Women’s Health and Mesa Community College (MCC) have teamed up to open a free drive-thru coronavirus testing site on the Southern and Dobson campus.
White tents, the National Guard, and a snaking line of cars have replaced the normal throng of students’ cars in the East parking lot. The testing site is the second of Embry Women’s Health’s strides to provide free testing during a rapid increase of COVID-19 in the state.
The coronavirus test is zero cost to the patient, with or without insurance. With insurance, the test is billed to their insurance company. Without, Embry is able to bill a program through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
Those interested should sign up for a test online at Embry Women’s Health’s website and bring their ID and insurance card.
“These sites have been my plan and vision for helping stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Embry Women’s Health’s development director Raymond Embry. “… We’ve basically taken everything we’ve learned over the past four months and, you know, built the test site.”
Through signing up and providing information online, time spent at this test site is cut considerably compared to others.
“People just have to check the patient in, and it’s a lot faster and a lot easier… Our goal is to have patients on site as little time as possible.”
When a car turns into the campus parking lot, occupants check in with the National Guard and join the line, where they are directed into a test stall. After a staff member greets them, the test provider swabs the patient and brings the specimen back to be sent off to the lab. The car is free to drive away.
Patients will receive test results in 3-5 days, although Embry emphasized to be patient if it takes a day longer, as both the labs and Embry Women’s Health are inundated with thousands of tests.
Drive-thru patient Louis came to the site because he came in contact with a coronavirus-positive person close to him.
“If something’s free, you’re going to get more people to come down and do it. Some people can’t afford to pay 100, 200 dollars for it,” Louis said. “So if it’s free, more people are going to do it and more often, so there’s going to be more positive tests… and they’re going to stay home.”
Embry also pointed out the location’s accessibility. “Chandler’s not far away. The intersection of the 101 and the 60 is right here, so it really makes it accessible for anyone in the East Valley…”
MCC, which has closed the campus, opened the parking lot to Embry Women’s Health. The 10-acre lot front of the football field provides the power and water necessary for the test site.
“Mesa Community College has been a really great partner… They’re basically donating it to the community during this time, so it also doesn’t cost anything.”
With a testing site with five rows of 20 stalls each, Embry hoped to get testing up to over 8,000 patients per day.
“We’re hoping to stop the spread of the virus,” said Embry, “and that we’re making a difference in Mesa, helping keep the city having low transmission rates, especially from asymptomatic individuals.”
The site, which tests thousands each day, takes massive resources. A day with 5,000 patients requires 10,000 gloves. Embry Women’s Health finds all the tents, fans, computers and other resources themselves, without support from city and state governments.
When the lab providing tests didn’t provide vials, swabs, or transport, Embry explained, “So, it took an enormous amount of time and energy to figure out what we needed, and then we had to source it. But once we did, we really were able to get started with COVID-19 testing when no one else was.”
“…We just want to make a difference in our community, and, you know, not become useless. So, we basically redeployed our resources, and originally we were lucky if we were testing 15-20 people a week.”
Test blitzes saw the number go from barely hundreds to thousands each Saturday.
“… All of a sudden we started seeing this enormous rise in positive cases, and you know in one day we had more positive cases come back than we did in all four test blitz Saturdays combined… We knew that that was kind of the reason we took the leap from small testing at our office to the state’s largest test site.”
According to the Arizona Department of Health, Arizona has 152,944 cases of coronavirus as of July 23. Gov. Doug Ducey in a July 16 briefing said ICU and hospital beds for COVID-19 patients are up, but the overall percentage of positive tests are trending down “for the first time in some time.”
As overall cases trend downward, the number of COVID-19 tests being administered by testing sites like Embry’s MCC site are increasing.
“…You shouldn’t get in over your head, right? Which, you know, technically we are. We have over 200 employees now at two test sites with more on the way, when we were just a small OB-GYN with 13 employees,” Embry said. “And we really believe that if we weren’t doing it, who would be doing it?”
He explained, “Just please be compassionate and understanding, you know, of the staff and people who are out at 115 degree heat working to test the community.”
Embry Women’s Health is also in talks with Estrella Mountain, Phoenix and Chandler-Gilbert Community College to open testing sites on their campuses. Their other testing site is at the corner of Rio Salado and McClintock in Tempe.
Sign up for a coronavirus test online and find more information at https://embrywomenshealth.com/covid-19-testing/.
Students can find information and updates about MCC’s pandemic response at https://www.mesacc.edu/coronavirus.