RAWLINS — Carbon County was never immune to the coronavirus pandemic by its rural nature, but it was initially insulated.
That time has passed.
“It’s not that we were ever protected or immune from this pandemic, but in Carbon County, early on, we did not see the type of numbers that even other areas of Wyoming saw,” said Stephanie Hinkle, communications director for Memorial Hospital of Carbon County. “Now it has caught up with us.”
Effective Dec. 1, the hospital in Rawlins will offer drive-thru COVID-19 testing, in conjunction with Carbon County School District No. 1 at 1600 Harshman St. in Rawlins. No appointment is needed for a test, which will be administered on a first-come, first-served basis from 10 a.m. to noon. Testing will end promptly at noon each day for adequate time for swabs to be processed.
“We’ve had an incredible influx (of people wanting COVID-19 testing) over the past month in particular, in both our family practice clinic and in our ER,” Hinkle said. “It’s become overwhelming. Public health has not been able to keep up with the demand, and quite frankly, our clinic has not been able to either.
“If the clinic can’t see people, we have them coming into the ER, and that impacts ER processes,” she said. “We have had a lot of conversations with public health, and we were at a point in Carbon County where we needed to implement this.”
Hospital staff will be in full personal protective equipment from a gown and mask to a face shield at the drive-thru testing site. Gloves will be changed out with every patient, and people are required to wear a mask in their vehicles in the testing line.
“Individuals need to wear masks in their vehicles, and we will take every precaution to keep people safe through this process,” Hinkle said.
Hospital staff anticipate a high demand for tests in the first weeks of December, and in order to process tests each day, people who have not been tested by noon will be asked to return the following day. According to a press release dated Nov. 18 from the Carbon County Board of County Commissioners, there are already limited medical resources and bedspace available at Memorial Hospital of Carbon County, and Carbon County’s regional tertiary care facilities are presently strained with their existing critical care and regular medical ward hospital bedspace.
Carbon County’s COVID-19 cases are “spreading at an exponential rate,” and the virus is growing faster in Wyoming than any other state, the commissioners said. A mask mandate took effect in Carbon County on Nov. 18, and will continue through Dec. 4 unless rescinded or modified.
Carbon County School District No. 1 has been especially supportive of the drive through clinic, Hinkle said, offering use of its bus barn parking lot. A suggested $20 donation for testing is requested, but all tests will be free of charge.
“We are getting the (test kits) because of our status as a critical access hospital at no cost. We are offering this as a free service to provide a community service that is very much needed right now,” Hinkle said. “We are suggesting a $20 donation to cover labor expenses and shipping costs.”
The hospital will be using test kits from a medical supplier called Curative, which was founded in January 2020 with the initial aim of developing a new test for sepsis. The company pivoted to COVID-19 testing in early March 2020 as supply chains became strained and the need for a new testing process arose.
“Staff will be performing nasal swabs on each individual. This particular swab is simple and painless,” Hinkle said. “Test results will be emailed to the individual within 48-72 hours.”
The test will not be valid for preoperative screening requirements, which means any person scheduled for a procedure at the hospital will have to complete a rapid result COVID-19 test on site.
“If someone is scheduled to come in and have a rotator cuff repair, or we have an expectant mother coming in for delivery, in instances where we know there is a scheduled procedure, we have to do a COVID test on them prior to delivery,” Hinkle said. “Ultimately, it is giving us the same information, but it is using a rapid result test in our lab.”
Patients tested at the drive through clinic will be given a packet of information as they exit and will receive results via email after the test. Required forms can be found online at www.imhcc.com under “News” and “COVID Drive Thru Testing Forms.” Completed forms are required at time of testing.
“Results will be automatically emailed to individuals. The information packet will give people instructions on, ok, if you’re positive, here is what you need to do,” Hinkle said. “Really, we are trying to implement a streamlined process to help relieve the burden on our clinic and our ER.”