Patients are tested for the coronavirus using a nose or mouth swab, which is sent off to a lab for testing.

Main Street Family Care has locations across Alabama, including one in Alexander City, and is offering COVID-19 testing to people who meet certain criteria and next week it will roll out an antibody blood test.

Since it started offering testing about a month ago, Main Street Family Care statewide has tested about 1,600 people and has identified about 3% of the total positive cases. At its Alex City location, about 60 people have been tested and 14 of those have been positive cases.

“We’re seeing certain hot spots and the testing numbers reflect that,” Main Street Family Care chief sales and marketing officer Betsy Stewart said.

Alex City has tested a larger number of patients than the other 16 clinics. The local location accounts for 26% of the total tests performed by Main Street Family Care.

“Right now we’re at the mercy of the lab companies and can’t order more tests until we use what we have,” Stewart said. “We’re having to limit who we can test based on certain criteria. If someone is experiencing symptoms, we want them to come in for an evaluation.”

Anybody experiencing coronavirus symptoms or knows he or she has been in contact with someone who tested positive can walk in to a Main Street Family Care location without an appointment.

“If you feel like you might (have it) but you’re unsure, we’re still recommending you call ahead, do a televisit or come in,” Stewart said. “You will receive a mask if you don’t already have one.”

All 17 locations are taking precautions in their clinics with extra cleaning and sanitizing and staff members are in full personal protective equipment (PPE) gear including gowns, face shields and masks.

“They have strict orders on how to properly wear (PPE) and how to dispose of it properly,” Stewart said. 

Patients are welcome to wait in their cars instead of the waiting room and a staff member will take them straight back to a sanitized exam room when it’s ready.

“When a patient comes in with symptoms, (after the evaluation) we first run a flu test and a strep test and take an X-ray to rule out other things,” Stewart said. “We can get a good look at what we’re dealing with and if those tests are negative, then they do a COVID test.”

If a patient is asymptomatic, the doctor will discuss the patient’s risks, what contact the patient has had and where the patient has been. Then the person will be swabbed in the nose or mouth and the test will be sent to a lab.

“We had a backlog of test results at first but now there is between a two- and three-day turnaround so that sped up a lot,” Stewart said.

Starting next week, Main Street Family Care will be offering antibody blood tests that check a person’s immune system for COVID-19.

“There’s a lot of debate about it,” Stewart said. “We really recommend doing both tests in conjunction. As you start fighting the virus, if you have antibodies, you could still be actively contagious and infected. There’s still a debate on whether you can catch it again but if you’re no longer actively infected, we can determine if you have been.”

Those tests will be sent to the lab and results will return in a few days.

Main Street Family Care works with Assurance Laboratories that has been helping with drive-thru testing. That company has agreed to supply swab and antibody tests for essential employers also starting next week.

Amy Passaretti is the editor of Lake Martin Living and Elmore County Living.