August 4, 2020
Warrenton clinic’s COVID rapid tests exceed 14,000
Lord knows how people found out. We don’t do any marketing. But people are coming from Pennsylvania, Maryland, D.C.
— Dr. Steven von Elten
They come by the hundreds each day to the Piedmont Urgent Care “rapid-test” site in Warrenton to learn if they have the coronavirus.
From Maryland, Pennsylvania and beyond, people travel great distances because the clinic — using technology unavailable today in many communities — can provide test results in as little as two hours, said Dr. Steve von Elten, who oversees the operation.
To his knowledge, no other healthcare provider in the region has “point-of-care” rapid testing.
Because of the huge demand for coronavirus testing, labs often take up to 14 days to report results, Dr. von Elten said.
For various reasons — health, work and travel, among them — many can’t or don’t want to wait that long, he said.
As of Monday, the clinic at 493 Blackwell Road had conducted more than 14,000 tests since April 7, when it started offering the rapid service.
“I think the incentive is that they just can’t get this test anywhere else,” Dr. von Elten said of the response. “I’m a doc. I’m trying to do the right thing for the community.”
In early March, he could tell the need for quick test results would be immense because of the pandemic.
“I realized that all heck was going to break loose.”
So based on research and a premonition, Dr. von Elten purchased rapid-testing equipment from San Diego-based Quidel Corp. — before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its use.
“I knew as soon as this got authorized, it’s Katie bar the door” and that kind of equipment would be hard to find, Dr. von Elten said of the Quidel system.
But, that will change as rapid-test technology becomes more widely available, perhaps in a month, Dr. von Elten said.
In turn, the clinic’s test numbers naturally will decline, he said.
Meanwhile, lines of vehicles with people seeking tests routinely wrap around the Warrenton Professional Center, which houses the clinic.
Last Thursday, the clinic conducted a one-day record 580 tests, with 32 proving positive, Dr. von Elten said.
Charging $75 per test, the site operates from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
On Monday, clinic staff tested 477 people. Of that total, 27 tested positive.
The clinic staff would have conducted many more but the site shut at around 4:30 p.m., because of heavy rain.
Under the program, vehicles line up in the office building’s parking lot where “greeters” explain the process, take test payments and direct patients to numbered parking spaces.
Clad in protective equipment — masks, gowns and gloves — healthcare professionals use swabs to collect samples from patients who remain in their vehicles.
Patients get test results electronically within two hours.
The testing site didn’t open Tuesday because that day’s forecast called for two to four inches of rain.
To “decongest” the Warrenton site, he and local the health department officials have discussed the idea of establishing a second testing operation “in the Bealeton area or perhaps it could be in Culpeper,” Dr. von Elten said.
Fauquier and Culpeper options remain under discussion, Virginia Department of Health Epidemiologist April Achter said Friday.
“We’re working with some folks in Culpeper to see what we could put in place,” Ms. Achter said. “That’s in progress. I don’t have any details on a date or location or anything — just that we are having the conversations.”
An alternative to a second Fauquier site could involve a “team of people that could be deployed, based on the need in a community,” she explained. “If we could sort that out, that might serve more community than having a physical location somewhere.”
Apart from creating potential new sites or a mobile team, “we are cognizant that as schools open and our community opens, our need for testing will increase,” Ms. Achter said.
After four months, the response to the Warrenton testing site still seems to amaze Dr. von Elten.
“Lord knows how people found out” about the site, he said. “We don’t do any marketing. But people are coming from Pennsylvania, Maryland, D.C.”
In some cases, they drive four hours or more for the test.
And, in a first, a Piedmont Family practice doctor got a call at about 8:30 p.m. Monday, July 27, from the Republic of Botswana’s embassy in Washington.
Four teenage “dependents” of embassy employees needed to quickly return to the southern Africa country.
On that Tuesday, three arrived at the clinic and got tested. The fourth got tested Wednesday.
“We gave them a letter so they could board the plane,” Clinical Manager Mary Arneson said.
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WarrentonLocal · August 7, 2020 at 9:55 am
Thank you Piedmont Urgent Care for this. It's really great to have people with suspected cases of COVID-19 coming to our community from remote areas, stopping by our gas stations and using our restaurants.
Also, now there are five Warrenton Police Officers there all day long directing traffic. That's an excellent use of our local tax dollars and it's a much better use of the police department's time than keeping the rest of the town safe.
It warms my heart to see how Piedmont Urgent Care is functioning as a member of our community, and is putting the health and safety of local residents ahead of their profits!
molly33 · August 7, 2020 at 9:14 am
AngryBob · August 6, 2020 at 3:03 pm
"Come in for a Covid test. Be sure to stop at IHOP on your way back!"
Becca · August 6, 2020 at 11:30 am
Many thanks to Dr. von Elten for having the foresight to invest in a technology so vital to keeping our community safe. Here's hoping other places will soon have this capability as well, so people from out of state & even other parts of Virginia don't end up bringing the virus here.
Truepat · August 6, 2020 at 6:12 am
The positive results for Virginian's is forwarded to the Virginia Health Department who maintain constant contact with the infected person for at least 14 days, does Piedmont notify the health departments from other states as well?
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