By Mike Donoghue, Islander Staff Reporter
SOUTH HERO – The Champlain Islands Health Center in South Hero will begin offering tests for the detection of the COVID-19 virus starting Wednesday afternoon.
The tests are administered only after a patient has received authorization in advance from his or her Primary Care Provider, Kate Reed, interim chief executive officer for the health center, told The Islander this afternoon.
People are not allowed to just drive up and ask for tests, Reed explained.
“Nobody can just visit. Don’t show up,” she said. The health center has to follow the directives of the State Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control, she said.
“Only after a referral can we do the tests,” she said.
The Primary Care Provider after conferring with the patient, must get authorization from a clearing house. It is only then that the patient will be notified they are cleared for the test.
The Health Center has personal protection equipment for the staff, Reed said.
A 10-foot-by-20-foot white tent has been erected on the back side of the health center off U.S. 2 to help with the testing. The tent is not a drive-thru, but to hold equipment, computers, test kits, tables and chairs for the staff and related items.
The Champlain Islands Health Center was identified as a key spot to help increase the number of tests being administered, Reed said. She said Vermont, and the Champlain Islands, have seen a low rate of testing.
She said some people may not have wanted to drive into Burlington for testing. So the state is studying adding test sites.
Reed said the health center staff was working Tuesday on the specific duties employees will do during the testing period.
The plan is to offer testing noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday beginning Wednesday, Reed said. Hours could be expanded as needed, she said.
There will be no direct contact between the patient and the staff, Reed said.
Patients arriving at the health center will drive up next to the white tent. The patient will have to provide proof of identity, most likely by displaying a driver’s license through a window.
The name will be cross-checked on the list of people approved for tests. Once confirmed, they will be asked to pull ahead. They will be provided a kit for the test.
The health center had shut down normal operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 20.
While there have been no confirmed cases in Grand Isle County as of Tuesday, the health center is continuing to offer informational services by phone to patients in the Grand Isle County region.
A nurse and an administrator are remaining on duty in South Hero, but people are being urged to call the office ahead and not just come in unannounced.
The health center can be reached by calling (802) 372-4687.
The health center has been operating in the Champlain Islands since about 2012. It moved from Grand Isle into new modern offices in November 2016.