Peoria's new state-run COVID-19 testing site opens this Saturday. One perk - less intimitating nasal swabs.
Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau said the swabs used at the new site look more like common cotton swabs.
"Originally, whenever we started this out, we were using the nasal pharyngeal. That's the ones that you've seen that have the very long stick, and they have to go way up into the sinus cavities. This is much less invasive," she said.
The swab is inserted halfway up each nostril by the patient, swirl it five times each, and place it into a secured package. Tate-Nadeau said staff onsite guide patients through the process, which is also safer for them and requires less personal protective equipment.
Heartland Health Services currently uses the nasal pharyngeal swabs at its four community-based testing sites in Peoria and Pekin.
"It's a different type of procedure [than Heartland], but we are looking for the same type of virus and trying to get the same type of results," said Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson.
The Illinois National Guard will staff the testing site in the Civic Center parking lot at Fulton and Monroe seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Testing is free. Drive-ups and walk-ups are accepted.
"We will have 60 soldiers there who have, a majority of them, already done this work from the Bloomington areas, and some other locations. So they know what they're doing," said Brigadier General Mark Jackson of the Illinois National Guard.
Tate-Nadeau said the fixed site previously set up at the McLean County Fairgrounds in Bloomington were shifted to Peoria to attract more usage. That community will retain a mobile COVID-19 testing site.
250 tests a day will be available per day. The state obtains these tests from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, so the testing criteria are stricter than those at Heartland Health Services' four community-based testing sites in Peoria and Pekin.
Testing is available for symptomatic adults, those exposed to a confirmed COVID-19 patient, and people who are immunocompromised or who suffer from chronic medical conditions. Others eligible include essential retail employees; childcare, manufacturing workers, and others who support critical infrastructure; government workers; healthcare workers; correctional officers; and first responders.
Tate-Nadeau urged anyone eligible to get tested.
"This is how we save lives. This is how we determine if we are truly flattening the curve, when we're going back, and hopefully it will help us do some early detection if we have some hotspots in an area," she said.
Results can take up to five days to return, but Tate-Nadeau said most come back sooner. She said the site will remain as long as needed.
The four Heartland Health Services community-based testing sites also remain open on varying days throughout the week, boosting the area's total testing capacity to a minimum of 400 per day.
"Testing, and having community-based testing is an essential piece of moving us forward, and taking advantage of that," said Hendrickson. "I just feel really humble that we have so much testing here locally and available."
252 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths linked to the virus are currently reported in Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford counties.
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