Local testing options employ different techniques, procedures

Comparing Ohio National Guard, Memorial Health System, Quality Care Associates and Walgreens Pharmacy offerings

Photo by Janelle Patterson Pharmacy technicians register patients in the drive-thru queue at Walgreens in Marietta Tuesday morning for coronavirus testing.

Testing for coronavirus infection varies in procedure, timeline and cost by the providers in the Mid-Ohio Valley offering the option for out-patient analysis.

Through first-person accounts provided by administrators of the test and independent experiences, the following compares the four opportunities provided locally as administered by members of the Ohio National Guard, Memorial Health System, Quality Care Associates and Walgreens Pharmacy in Marietta.

Readers should note that the Ohio National Guard testing was offered as a pop-up site in McConnelsville in June, organized by the Ohio Department of Health and Muskingum Valley Health Centers in collaboration with the Morgan County Health Department for one day to any individual without cost or preference for residency.

Test results from that day of testing were received by attendees within 48 hours by a phone call from MVHC, though positive test results afforded an earlier phone call as well from the county health department there.

National Guard testers, while not billing insurance, did ask patients if they have insurance.

Then the specimen swabs were performed by uniformed members of the Guard who collected mucous from the insides of both nostrils of a patient for a minimum of 10 seconds per nostril reaching the nasopharynx (back top of the throat and sinuses).

The individuals who administered the swabs were wearing gloves, cloth disposable face masks and plastic face shields when they inserted the 6-inch plastic testing stick into each nostril.

When the specimens were adequately secured, under the supervision of the captain present, the plastic stick was inserted into a clear tube with a liquid and marked with the patient specifics correlating with personal information on race, ethnicity and date of birth added to the name of each patient.

Capt. Chris Warman explained that day that specimens collected were then taken directly to the Ohio Department of Health laboratory dedicated to coronavirus, allowing for more expedited results than those provided by private laboratory companies like LabCorp.

Tuesday, testing was available in three locations in Marietta, with only one mirroring the exact procedure followed by the Guard, though still utilizing LabCorp for analysis.


The line stretched along South Third Street building up vehicles for the hour before testing opened Tuesday.

Thirteen vehicles queued before the Washington County Courthouse struck 9 a.m.

It was another half hour before the self-administered nasal swab reached the tenth vehicle.

Two pharmacy technicians utilized clipboards to take down information through closed windows of vehicles in line, asking for the name of the patient being tested, if they could present an ID, if the ID has the present home address of the patient, if they had an appointment, if they’re presenting symptoms of coronavirus or have been in contact with someone who is positive or presenting symptoms and if they would share a phone number for the patient to be reached later with results.

“Can I have you identify your gender for me?” was another question asked by the technicians. “And would you like to disclose your race? You don’t have to.”

The final question before a patient was directed to move forward in the queue Tuesday to the pharmacist overseeing the self-administration of the rapid antigen test asked for “verbal consent to be treated.”

Written testing instructions at the pharmacy guide motorists to put their vehicle in park, roll down their window, pick up the swab from a tote and open the paper wrapper halfway but not discard the wrapper.

Then the pharmacist, introducing himself by first name described the procedure further.

“This is a Q-tip on a long stick,” he described, removing the swab from the paper wrapper on the other side of a plastic cart and from behind a face mask. “I’m opening that part for you. What you’ll do is tilt your head back slightly, take it out and go in the nostril about an inch. Swirl it about then the other nostril try again, then put it back in the wrapper and set it back (in the plastic tote).”

The experience, once directed by the pharmacist took approximately 30 seconds to complete, concluding just over 60 minutes from the middle of the car queue to exiting the drive-thru line.

Test results were to be provided by phone call from the pharmacy by end of business Tuesday but were not provided by press time.

According to the Walgreens website, “your nasal swab will either be sent to a laboratory partner for analysis or will be analyzed on site by a Walgreens pharmacist.”

Memorial Health System

The line at Memorial Health System Tuesday morning was not as populated with vehicles, but was delayed by a glitch in the texting registration system at the hospital’s Pike Street location.

The delay required the security detail for the drive-up facility to take some patients’ names, provide a second phone number to register with a clerk over the phone and give verbal consent.

The clerk on the phone line confirmed insurance carriers, though no payment was taken at the time of registration.

Then a nurse completed the remaining paperwork in-person, again through windows and behind a mask, asking identifying and residency questions including state and county residency, smoker status and employment identifiers.

But the nurse also asked what symptoms were presented by patients Tuesday, when each symptom began, and both order and severity of progression of symptoms, if present.

The nurse then directed the registered patient to drive up beneath the outdoor tent behind the Physicians Care Express building on Pike Street to be seen by a physician assistant and have an oral swab administered by the PA.

The PA first utilized both an instrument scanning the forehead of patients for their temperature and a stethoscope to monitor breathing, while asking questions of travel and immediate contact with others.

Then, while masked with a full plastic covering over the whole head and while wearing gloves, they used a tongue depressor and a plastic swab to collect saliva from the tonsil area of the patients’ throats.

Then the PA, as needed, prescribed temporary treatment measures while signing a doctor’s note for those requiring to self-isolate while awaiting results in three to five days.

Quality Care Associates

The independent primary and urgent care facility on Front Street, also offered both an antigen PCR test similar to that offered by Memorial but administered through the nasal cavity, and antibody testing for individuals who believe they may have been exposed within a month or more.

“We do the antigen PCR test that’s sent to LabCorp and have been sending several tests each day to them,” explained owner Dr. Jeff Patey. “We did 30 (Monday).”

Patey said he is weighing different options to also provide a kind of rapid antigen test, but would still plan to have his staff administer the swabs rather than self-administration.

The wait at QCA was approximately 20 minutes, asking patients to park in the rear then wait in chairs, or standing six feet apart on the side of the brick building in the shade.

But it also included the same intake questions offered by Memorial Health System, gauging onset and progression of symptoms.

QCA did bill insurances and accept co-pays for the visits and, like Memorial’s location, also documented blood pressure and oxygen levels to conclude vitals documentation.

Janelle Patterson may be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

Testing techniques in Washington County:

– Memorial Health System; 800 Pike St., Monday-Saturday: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., throat swab administered by staff.

– Quality Care Associates; 416 Front St., Monday-Friday: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., nasal swab administered by staff.

– Walgreens Pharmacy; 300 Greene St., Monday-Friday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., nasal swab self-administered.

** All testing sites listed are in Marietta.

Sources: Websites of the three companies.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)