A drive-up-only COVID-19 testing site, which will not require individuals to have a physician’s order to receive a test, will open in Basalt — likely during the first week of November.
“We heard and understand the need to reduce that barrier of a physician’s order,” Aspen Valley Hospital CEO Dave Ressler said during a Pitkin County Board of Health meeting Thursday. “It’s something that we agreed needed to be reduced.”
Aspen Valley Primary Care, AVH’s family medicine and internal medicine practice, will operate the forthcoming testing site at 1460 E. Valley Road in Basalt.
AVH Director of Primary Care Alyssa Franklin said the new testing site had a target open date of Nov. 4 and would serve patients Wednesday through Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. A number of healthcare providers — including Aspen Medical Care, MidValley Family Practice, Roaring Fork Neurology and Mountain Family Health Centers — already offer COVID-19 testing in Basalt.
“The purpose is to augment what’s already out there,” Franklin said in an interview Monday. “We wanted to complement what they were already doing.”
According to Franklin, the drive-up-only site will provide COVID-19 testing to symptomatic patients or patients, not necessarily exhibiting symptoms, who experienced known exposure to the virus.
“Those would be the two patients that we’ll serve,” Franklin said. “If you have insurance, we will bill it. If you don’t have insurance, we won’t charge you.”
In order to utilize the new testing site, patients will need to access a forthcoming link on the AVH website and answer questions regarding either their symptoms or known exposure.
“That sends our team here at the primary care office an email letting us know that this patient would like to be tested, and then we’ll contact the patient to get an appointment scheduled,” Franklin said.
According to Franklin, patients will stay in their vehicles and receive either a saliva-based polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test — results for which can take up to 48 hours — or a nasal-swab point-of-care, or POC, test that can produce results in 15 minutes.
The Testing Advisory Committee at AVH has determined that the saliva-based PCR tests will be saved for patients exhibiting common symptoms of COVID-19, such as loss of taste or smell, cough, fever, shortness of breath and chills. The POC tests will be utilized on individuals with minor symptoms not necessarily predictive of COVID, like a sore throat or runny nose, Franklin explained.
“The reason is … the PCR-based tests tend to be more sensitive and have less false negatives than the point-of-care tests,” Franklin said. “It might take us a day or two longer to get results, but they are going to be more accurate.”
As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the nation, local health officials have stressed the need for a multi-pronged approach to testing.
“We’re really targeting residents of our valley,” Ressler said. “That’s really our target market, so to speak, with this.”