WATERTOWN — The drive-up testing site at Samaritan Medical Center on Friday had its runaway largest number of appointments in one day, coming after the hospital was told results wouldn’t return as quickly as usual.
The COVID-19 swabbing site had around 170 appointments on Friday — compared to 34 in the previous two days combined. Since it opened midway through March, the site’s record high in one day before Friday was around 90.
The spike in testing is surgical related, not because there are new cases of COVID-19 cases. The hospital had been getting results back in two days, which meant patients going in for elective surgeries could be swabbed around three days in advance. But last week, LabCorp, which processes the swabs coming out of the site, told the hospital it is helping COVID-19 hot-spots first, resulting in a delay in the results.
“When we asked when this would happen they said immediately,” spokesperson Leslie M. DiStefano said. “So we had to readjust for this entire week of surgical procedures.”
Appointments will have to be made around five days in advance of a procedure to give time for the results to come back, she said. And since the news was rather sudden, many appointments had to be pushed to Friday, making a long day for those who work at the site.
“We’re very aware of the heat,” she said. “In addition to the heat, wearing all the full PPE and the gowns and the masking and the shields, it’s a lot of equipment on their bodies.”
Ms. DiStefano said they are increasing staff members at the site so there can be more breaks in the air-conditioned hospital.
“It’s a very good setup from the perspective of exposure,” she said, “but it certainly can be very difficult for staff members in heat like this.”
The site will likely try to level-out that schedule, but this comes at a time when tests could increase. The state is supplying an extra roughly 300 free tests per week in the coming days, mostly for people who require COVID-19 tests to return to their jobs.