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Dr. Chris Trevino, chief medical officer for Our Lady of the Lake Ascension Medical Center, center, speaks Monday, March 16, 2020, about the Gonzales hospital’s preparations for the novel coronavirus as Coroner Dr. John Fraiche looks on at the Courthouse Annex. Ascension Parish had the first confirmed case of the virus in the Baton Rouge area on Monday.

A new drive-thru location to test people for the novel coronavirus has opened on the campus of the former St. Elizabeth Hospital in Gonzales, a top medical official said Thursday.

People who take advantage of the testing site must have doctor's orders and testing is primarily limited to physicians who are affiliated with the Our Lady of the Lake hospital network in Baton Rouge and other parts of southeast Louisiana, the official said.

Dr. Chris Trevino, chief medical officer and administrator for the Our Lady of the Lake Ascension hospital in Gonzales, said about 50 people were tested Wednesday. Results from that testing weren't immediately available Thursday.

The drive-thru line will be open from 1 to 3 p.m. daily as test kits are available, he said. Testing times could expand as supplies increase.

The Ascension location is the latest in a handful of drive-thru sites popping up or planned in southeast Louisiana and Acadiana as local and state health officials try to ramp up testing of the public. One site in Baton Rouge ran out of test kits earlier in the week. 

As of early Thursday, 347 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 8 have died. Two positive cases are in Ascension Parish and one in nearby St. James Parish, state health officials said. The person in St. James died Wednesday.

The state has conducted 805 tests. Hospitals have conducted additional tests, but only their positive cases are being included in the state's figures.

Trevino explained that the testing site is structured to avoid confusion: ensuring the right people are tested with limited supplies and that those people get the appropriate follow-up after they are tested.

"If we don't attach them to a doc(tor) in a meaningful way, it's chaos. We don't know that they've been screened appropriately. We don't know how to get follow-up on their tests back to them," he said.

He said physicians giving orders should be on the Our Lady of the Lake electronic records system. If they aren't, patients can call (225) 765-5500 to coordinate testing.

Trevino said a way to think of the testing site is a visit to the doctor's office to get a test, except people are waiting in the parking lot of the hospital, instead of a building. He added that hospital officials are also trying to limit community spread of the virus through the structure of the testing.

"It is not going to Walmart or going to Kmart or going to Walgreens," he said. "It's not what it is."

People without a primary care physician should call the 211 hotline set up through the state and United Way.

If you have questions about coronavirus, please email our newsroom at online@theadvocate.com.


Email David J. Mitchell at dmitchell@theadvocate.com

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