Clark County and University Medical Center will launch a by appointment-only, drive-thru testing program at the Orleans Hotel & Casino on Tuesday, May 5, and Wednesday, May 6, as an initial step toward expanding the community's capacity to make COVID-19 testing more widely available to the public.
Starting today, the public can schedule an appointment to be tested at the site by visiting the COVID-19 Testing Center on the home page of UMC's website at www.umcsn.com. The Orleans site will offer 300 appointments between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. Additional days are expected to be added following evaluation of the first two days. The Orleans Hotel is located at 4500 W. Tropicana Avenue. Testing will take place on the first floor of the resort's parking garage off Cameron St., on the west side of the property.
"As we begin to reopen businesses and facilities in phases, it is important for us to know how widespread the virus is in our community," said Clark County Commission Chairman Marilyn Kirkpatrick. "With more testing, we expect to see the number of coronavirus cases increase. The data, combined with everyone continuing to practice good hygiene, social distancing and other measures, will help guide our decisions and keep the community safe as we move forward."
"UMC has demonstrated leadership and a deep commitment to our community in its efforts to help manage the coronavirus pandemic," said Clark County Commission Vice Chairman Lawrence Weekly, Chair of the UMC Board of Trustees. "I commend its dedicated staff for their work to expand Southern Nevada's capacity to offer testing to the public so we can continue to monitor the impact of the virus and ensure anyone who contracts the virus receives quality and compassionate care."
On Thursday, Gov. Steve Sisolak released his "Nevada United Roadmap to Recovery." An important component was expanding test capacity and making "testing broadly available." Additionally, the statewide criteria for moving to Phase 1 recovery includes a "decline in the percentage of people testing positive" – which officials believe will occur as more are tested – as well as a "decrease in the trend of COVID-19 hospitalization," which should occur with more testing, isolation of those who are infected and contact tracing.
Data tracking is critical, and local public health authorities and counties will be required to submit information to the state involving PPE supply, testing and timely reporting of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, the Roadmap explains. "The State is actively monitoring statewide COVID-19 data reporting for progress toward meeting reopening criteria and will continue [to] require robust reporting from public health authorities and counties throughout Nevada moving progressively through each phase," according to the state roadmap. "Community-based testing is critical to Nevada's effort to reopen the economy and keep it open." Testing "will allow local, state, and tribal leaders to assess the effectiveness in prevention measures and to identify and facilitate interventions for future outbreaks."
"This is a critical step in the reopening of Clark County," said Commissioner Michel Naft, whose District A includes the Orleans Hotel. "Our goal is to offer more locations in the near future where the public can be tested, including Laughlin."
Federal funding through the CARES Act will cover the costs for testing for those with no insurance. Patients who have insurance will be asked to provide it for billing purposes, and depending on their insurance
may not have a co-pay. When patients arrive for their appointment, they will be checked in and directed to a
drive-up testing station. Medical professionals will conduct the test as patients remain in their cars. Test collection samples will be sent to UMC's lab for analysis. Results are expected to be available to patients within 24 to 48 hours. The results, positive or negative, will be reported to the Southern Nevada Health District.
"As Nevada's most sophisticated hospital offering the state's highest level of care, UMC has a unique responsibility to serve as a leader in our community's response to this unprecedented public health crisis," said UMC CEO Mason VanHouweling. "Our team at UMC looks forward to working alongside our partners at Clark County to provide expanded access to COVID-19 testing for the community we serve."
The type of testing available at the site is polymerase chain reaction tests, better known as PCR tests, which show whether someone currently has the coronavirus. UMC is working on expanding its capacity to process PCR tests to 10,000 a day by June 1. UMC also expects to offer anti-body testing for coronavirus, which shows whether someone is currently infected or may have been infected in the past, later this month at more a limited capacity.
Additionally, the Southern Nevada Health District is working with local jurisdictions to conduct testing in senior residential complexes and other facilities located in high-risk areas.
"The Health District has been collaborating with its jurisdictional partners to provide testing resources in our community for seniors, minorities, and those who are most at risk for COVID-19," said Dr. Fermin Leguen, Acting Chief Health Officer for the Southern Nevada Health District. "As we move forward, we are committed to working with our response partners to expand our collection sites and testing resources to more Clark County residents."
In the early weeks of the outbreak, tests were only available to individuals who had symptoms of the coronavirus and a doctor's order to get tested. State and local officials and community partners have been working to expand testing capabilities, and more testing sites are expected to be announced soon.
"Sample collection is a centerpiece of County-led efforts for community-based testing," the state Roadmap report stated. "This will require county governments to identify testing criteria, develop plans and necessary resources, and implement those plans in a way that protects the health of those assigned with collecting the samples from residents meeting the established criteria…. The collection, sharing and analysis of testing data resulting from these tests will be essential to decision makers in the state."
Officials say as plans are put into place to re-open businesses and facilities in phases, it will continue to be important for residents to help limit the spread of COVID-19 by social distancing and wearing face coverings in public places, washing hands and practicing good cough and sneeze hygiene, and limiting your contact with others if you test positive for the virus or someone in your immediate household does.
The state roadmap also spells out how reopening will be County-driven with statewide oversight: "For Nevada to start returning to the normal structure of government decision-making, the County Commission must be part of the process and have increasing responsibility for determining the manner in which businesses within its jurisdiction can open within the parameters set forth by directives and state regulations."
"As counties throughout Nevada work to meet the statewide reopening criteria and determine the complex methods of reopening businesses in a matter that will protect the health and safety of the public in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, they can seek assistance and direction from the Local Empowerment Advisory
Council (LEAP), created under this plan," the Roadmap states. "The LEAP is a group of stakeholders who will
serve as a resource for counties as they work through the necessary requirements to reopen and share best practices and guidelines for local communities. Most importantly, the recommendations of the LEAP help inform the Directives issued by the Governor as the state moves through each phase."
The Urban County Lead is Clark County Commission Chairman Marilyn Kirkpatrick. The Rural County Leade is J.J. Goicoechea, chairman of the Eureka County Commission. The other members are Nevada Association of Counties representative Dagny Stapleton, a representative of the Governor's Office, Nevada Department of Business and Industry Director Terry Reynolds and Governor's Office of Economic Development Director Michael Brown. The LEAP "is encouraged to consult with business and industry representatives, worker and labor organizations, public health authorities, Nevada Hospital Association, local government representatives, state legislators, and other stakeholders, as needed."
Editor's Note: News media are invited to a briefing and walk through of drive-thru testing site at the Orleans at 1 p.m. on Monday. When the site opens, media access will be limited to protect patient privacy.