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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

Ready For Action: Slow Start At New Drive-Up COVID-19 Testing Site

There was no line and no long waits Saturday when Bloomington’s first COVID-19 drive-up testing site finally opened.

There were only a handful of people tested in the first hour at the McLean County Fairgrounds (Interstate Center), just west of the Bloomington Walmart. A WGLT reporter saw one car drive through the indoor testing space during a visit just after 9 a.m., when the site opened for the first time. Officials said Friday they expected "significant wait times."

"OK folks. Many were shouting for more testing. It's here and you're not. What's up?" the McLean County Emergency Management Agency posted on Facebook around 2 p.m. Saturday. The Facebook post was later deleted.

It was unclear how many tests were completed during the first full day of testing Saturday. An Illinois National Guard spokesperson who was on site declined to comment Saturday evening, referring WGLT to state and county health officials. They did not respond to requests for a tally.

The testing site is capable of doing up to 250 tests per day. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, or until the daily allotment of tests has been exhausted.

TESTING CRITERIA

There was some confusion Saturday about the criteria for who could be tested. The McLean County Health Department said it was limited to four groups:

  • Healthcare workers with respiratory symptoms and a temperature of 100.4 or greater
  • First responders with respiratory symptoms and a temperature of 100.4 or greater
  • Seniors (65+) with respiratory symptoms and a temperature of 100.4 or greater
  • Patients with underlying medical conditions with respiratory symptoms and a temperature of 100.4 or greater

But in a Facebook post on Saturday, the National Guard listed different criteria: the same four groups, but without the temperature above 100.4 listed.

It was unclear if the testing criteria would be loosened Sunday and beyond if Saturday's turnout was low. "Testing criteria is determined and updated by" the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, McLean County Health Department spokesperson Dion McNeal said Saturday. State health officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Testing swab
Credit Ryan Denham / WGLT
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WGLT
Illinois National Guard personnel take a specimen Saturday, March 28, 2020, at the new COVID-19 testing site in west Bloomington.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has set the criteria for who can be tested in Bloomington, said Illinois National Guard public affairs officer A.J. Ruggieri. The National Guard is providing medical, logistics, administrative, and safety personnel for the testing site.

“They’ll make those decisions—how long we’ll be here, what the criteria will be, if we change the criteria—all of that will come from them,” Ruggieri said about IDPH and the governor's office.

The National Weather Service has forecast a severe weather outbreak for Saturday afternoon and evening, with damaging winds, very large hail, and strong tornadoes possible. A thick layer of fog covered the testing site in far west Bloomington on Saturday morning.

“I would expect the weather is a factor (in the slow traffic so far),” Ruggieri said. “And throughout the day, it’s probably going to pick up as more of the word gets out.”

Patients will be contacted with their results by phone within three to five days. Walkups are not permitted because of federal guidelines, said McNeal.

Peoria City/County Health Department administrator Monica Hendrickson said Friday the Bloomington site was “open to the region as a whole,” not just McLean County residents. A press release from the McLean County Health Department on Friday did not specify any residency restrictions on who can be tested.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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