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Coronavirus testing site at UNLV to accept children, walk-ups

Updated May 26, 2020 - 4:49 pm

Clark County officials hope the relocation of the coronavirus testing site into a UNLV parking garage Wednesday will capture data from a population thus far underreported: children.

In moving the community-based testing center from The Orleans, which tested nearly 14,000 people since early May, officials said Tuesday that they are optimistic about being able to replicate its success.

“We’re hoping to reach the capacity here and the seamless process that we achieved at The Orleans,” Clark County Fire Capt. Brian O’Neal said, adding that the site had escalated to administering up to 1,200 tests per day during its roughly three weeks of operation.

But the new UNLV site is different. Not only will it now accept drive-through and walk-up patients, thus accommodating pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists, but it also will not limit the cotton-swab testing by age.

“The idea behind obtaining tests in the pediatric population is to supplement the lack of scientific studies in how COVID affects children,” said University Medical Center Dr. Luis Medina-Garcia, an infectious disease specialist. “And we want to give our local pediatricians sufficient information from a public health perspective to determine whether special steps need to be taken.”

Children in the U.S. and Europe who recovered from the novel coronavirus have reportedly later been hospitalized with an inflammatory syndrome believed to be tied to the virus.

Medina-Garcia said it is important to establish a data pool in this region not only for health studies but also for decision-makers so they have information they can lean on to determine when to reopen schools.

While hospitals and some doctor offices have performed tests on children, Medina-Garcia said he believed the UNLV site would be the first community-based testing location for children in the Las Vegas Valley.

Although there is no age limit on who may be tested with parental consent, “we’re not going to force any child to take the test even if their parents want them to,” O’Neal said.

Instead, Medina-Garcia, said officials will test children if they are able to cooperate and if the individual administering the swab believes it can be done safely. If not, officials may ask the parent to reschedule or have testing performed at a different venue, he said.

Walk-up testing

Officials are also trying to reach participants without vehicles in order to cater to a broader population, including students, the homeless and people living nearby without transportation, according to O’Neal.

“Part of the reason for that is being inclusive,” Medina-Garcia said. “We understand that not everybody has access to a vehicle, and we have population that uses public transportation, and they should be able to have access to testing just the same.”

Widespread testing has long been seen as the key to reopening the economy, and while Clark County Commissioner Jim Gibson lauded the coordinated effort to expand testing throughout the county, he noted that “it’s not lost on us that the community and our residents are responding to the call to be tested.”

New UNLV site details

Individuals seeking to get tested, whether they have symptoms or not, must pre-register at UMCSN.com or by phone with Clinical Pathology Laboratories at 702-795-4932. The Tropicana Avenue parking garage is next to the Thomas & Mack Center, and individuals can enter through University Center Drive, where they will be directed by staffers to the location.

Patients are asked to arrive about 15 minutes before their appointment time to get checked in. O’Neal said those in vehicles would be instructed to keep their windows up for self-quarantine purposes and to put their ID on their dashboard.

There will be six testing stations, identical to the capacity at The Orleans, and O’Neal said officials are hoping that the process, from ID verification to testing, would take 10 to 15 minutes, depending on demand.

Participants will be administered polymerase chain reaction tests, which can determine whether someone is currently affected by the novel coronavirus.

There will be no out-of-pocket costs for patients. The site will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Clark County and University Medical Center are operating the site in partnership with Clinical Pathology Laboratories, the Nevada National Guard, UNLV and University Police Services.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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