Triage tent set up: NTMC to have drive-thru coronavirus testing

A triage tent and drive-thru COVID-19 testing site has been set up at North Texas Medical Center, 1900 Hospital Blvd., to help with the new coronavirus should the area experience an influx of cases.

Cooke County is preparing for a potential deluge of illness.

City Manager Barry Sullivan announced a “fully functional” triage tent has been set up at North Texas Medical Center, 1900 Hospital Blvd., during a specially called Gainesville City Council meeting Wednesday, March 25.

Sullivan said the city has been working with the county and NTMC to help prepare for any possible outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

“It was a huge team partnership,” Sullivan said of getting the triage and COVID-19 testing site set up.

Sullivan said the 10-room tent has running water and is climate-controlled.

City officials met for its meeting via video conference to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus and will continue to meet that way until further notice.

North Texas Medical Center spokeswoman Kristi Rigsby said Thursday, March 26, “first and currently” the new site is a COVID-19 testing station for “patients that meet a very strict criteria.”

Those patients must speak with their primary care physician to discuss their health concerns, at which point the physician will determine if the patient will require testing. If testing is required, the physician will call NTMC’s registration department and request their patient be tested, Rigsby said.

Registration will then take all patient information and set up an appointment for the test to be taken. The patient will arrive at the drive-up test location in the back parking lot of NTMC and present their identification to verify their appointment, she said. The patient will then be tested, drive home to quarantine themselves and await test results from the doctor.

Rigsby said the testing site is for physician-approved appointments only.

“Public arriving on site without an appointment will be turned away,” she said. “[Gainesville Police Department] officers will be onsite to help reinforce.”

Rigsby said if and when patient volume increases to the point that “mere numbers are causing operational and safety concerns” for patients, visitors and staff, the emergency department waiting area will be closed and all triage operations will be moved to the tent.

She said the triage tent will be for patients that have an issue such as a cut or broken bone. If a person has more serious injuries or requires hospitalization, they would be admitted to the hospital, according to Rigsby.

On Monday, March 23, the city of Gainesville Emergency Operation Center’s readiness level escalated from Level 3 or increased readiness to level 2 or high readiness to prepare for local impacts from the coronavirus pandemic, according to Gainesville Fire-Rescue spokeswoman Tamara Sieger.

Fire Chief Wayne Twiner told city council members Wednesday evening that the change in levels means all EOC staff are on standby and “ready to go if the situation escalates.”

Follow the Gainesville Daily Register online for updates throughout the day as the situation surrounding the new coronavirus is developing.

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