Matthew Valliere, CEO of CareSouth, speaks Wednesday, May 20, 2020, in front of one of his company’s federally qualified health centers in Donaldsonville to announce a new coronavirus testing effort as local officials listen, with social distancing.

DONALDSONVILLE — CareSouth Medical and Dental opened a new drive-thru test site for the novel coronavirus at its clinic in western Ascension Parish on Wednesday, a top company official said.

The new launch is part of an initiative to expand testing to hot spots for the virus in the region through CareSouth's federally qualified health centers in Baton Rouge, Plaquemine and Donaldsonville.

"All those communities have been hard hit when you look at per capita population and the number of COVID-19 positive they've had," said Matthew Valliere, chief executive officer of CareSouth. "And with the Phase 1 reopening of the state last Friday, community wide testing is definitely needed with individuals going back to work."

The tests, which are open to anyone 12 or older, don't require a doctor's note or for the person to have symptoms. The tests require no co-pay for those with insurance and are free to those who don't have it.

Valliere discussed the launch in Donaldsonville after a news conference with local officials about the opening Wednesday.

CareSouth plans announce the opening of another testing site at its Plaquemine clinic on Thursday and opened testing in Baton Rouge last week. 

Citing federal guidelines that key on declining hospitalizations and other factors, Gov. John Bel Edwards eased stay-at-home restrictions on Friday. 

The census tract for the Donaldsonville area where CareSouth opened Wednesday was tied for the 11th most number of cases in the state at 117 through Monday. That's up nine cases over the past week, state health data show.

The tract is home to a cluster of cases and deaths at the Chateau D'Ville nursing home, but home appears to contain about half the cases in the community overall, according to state statistics.

Through Monday, 45 residents and 12 staffers at the nursing home had contracted the virus and 11 of those residents had died, the state reported.

Plaquemine area has a lower but still elevated number of cases, state data show, but is near the St. Gabriel area, which had the highest number of cases in the state at 209 on Monday. Many of those are inside nearby state prisons.

Valliere said the initiative is being offered through a partnership with Quest Diagnostics, a lab that will provide the testing, and Louisiana Healthcare Connections. Louisiana Healthcare holds one of five state contracts to manage the state's Medicaid program. 

The partnership chose a different federally qualified health center for testing in New Orleans.

The CareSouth clinic in Donaldsonville is located at 904 Catalpa Street next to the parish Health Unit off La. 1.

Hours in Donaldsonville are Mondays 3 to 5 p.m. and Wednesdays 8 a.m. to noon.

Testing hours are at the Baton Rouge clinic, located at 3140 Florida St., are Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to noon.

Testing hours at the Plaquemine clinic, located 59340 River West Drive, will be 8 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and 3 to 5 p.m. Thursdays.

At all locations, walk-up testing is available from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

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