October 27, 2020

St. Louis libraries offer drive-thru COVID-19 testing

St. Louis County Libraries offer books and other recourses for their community. Now, they are working with the St. Louis County Health Department and Abbott Labs to offer free, drive-thru COVID-19 tests.

A car pulls up to the Meramec Valley Branch of the St. Louis County Library on Tuesday, Sept. 22. A mother and her child wait patiently for the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to come to their car. They’re not here to check out books– they’re here for a COVID-19 test. 

Public libraries provide resources to communities, but now it has new responsibilities. St. Louis County Libraries are now offering free, drive-thru style COVID-19 testing on numerous dates and locations throughout the fall. 

“I think the public libraries were a really good partner for the County Health Department to team up with,” EMT Stephen Pyle said. “The libraries have locations everywhere and they’re already really community-run places.”

These drive-thru tests are provided by the St. Louis County Health Department. It contracted Abbott Labs to do the actual testing, then Abbott brings in EMTs to do the job. These EMTs are responsible for testing each person coming through the COVID-19 testing drive-thru, a fast process that usually takes less than five minutes. They also try to answer any questions people may have.

“There are people who are ansty about getting tested and have so many questions they ask us [about COVID] that we don’t really know; nobody really knows,” EMT Natasha Noble said. “You kind of feel bad that all you’re there to do is swab them. You can’t really give them too many answers.” 

After signing up online for a specific date, time and location, anyone can come get a free COVID-19 test. However, less people have been taking advantage of this recently. 

“At this point honestly it’s not even too busy. COVID’s been swirling around the US for about six or seven months now. People are definitely a little less invested in coming to get tested now,” Pyle said. “I think part of that is that getting results does take a lot of time. Maybe people are not as concerned about COVID as they were in the beginning.” 

The turnover time for test results at these drive-thru testing locations is five days. 

Pyle and Noble have been conducting the testing at public county libraries for two months now and will continue to do so in the months ahead. Each Tuesday and Thursday through Oct. 29, a different St. Louis County Library branch will have COVID-19 drive-thru testing available from 8:00 a.m. to noon. The testing takes place in the branch parking lot. Appointments are required and can be made by going to stlcorona.com and selecting “COVID-19 Testing.” A full schedule including dates and locations is provided on the website. 

“I think it is still important that people come get tested. At the end of the day, maybe COVID is not nearly as bad as I know I was initially expecting, personally,” Pyle said. “It is still really important, especially because there are so many high risk folks. I’m glad the county is taking out all extringent measures and trying to encourage people to come get tested.

Cars line up for their drive-thru COVID-19 test appointments on Sept. 17 at the St. Louis County Libraries Headquarters Branch. The line moves quickly, taking about five minutes per car. Photo by Charlotte Renner.

EMT Natasha Noble prepares to administer a COVID-19 test by putting on her personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes precautions such as a face shield, face mask, gloves, and body covering. Photo by Charlotte Renner.                                                                            

 

Natasha Noble prepares the swab for one of the drive-thru COVID tests she performed on Sept. 22 at the Meramec Valley Branch of the St. Louis County Library. Photo by Charlotte Renner.

Natasha Noble performs a nose swab COVID-19 test on a patient at the Meramec Valley Branch of the St. Louis County Library on Sept. 22. Photo by Charlotte Renner.                                     

 

 

EMT Stephen Pyle verifies a drive thru COVID-19 test attendee’s identification from a safe distance. Photo by Charlotte Renner.

Stephen Pyle loads up the COVID-19 test supplies back onto the Abbott ambulance after a four hour testing session at the Meramec Valley Branch St. Louis County Library. Photo by Charlotte Renner.

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