Blount Memorial Hospital officials reported Wednesday a “steady flow” of patients during the first day of COVID-19 screening at East Tennessee Medical Group, a BMH satellite clinic.

The hospital announced Tuesday it would offer screenings to all Blount County residents and residents of other counties within the Blount Memorial Physicians Group.

“This drive-thru set-up is for people in our community who are experiencing specific symptoms,” said Blount Memorial Chief Medical Officer Dr. Harold Naramore. “And we ask our community to help us be good stewards of resources and only come if your physician’s office directs you to or if you have symptoms that mirror our screening guidelines.”

Screenings took an average of 10 minutes and were done while the patient remained in his or her car, Blount Memorial Public Relations Manager Josh West said. Being phone-screened prior to going to the testing site will keep wait times short, he added.

If a patient had a 100.4 degree temperature and a cough or shortness of breath, he or she was administered a nasal swab to test for either flu or coronavirus.

“A large portion of those who presented to the site had signs and symptoms that met testing criteria,” Naramore said.

If symptoms indicate COVID-19, samples will be sent to a private laboratory in the Knoxville area. The results will be returned within five to six days but may take longer depending on testing volume at the lab, West said.

No copays were collected Wednesday, and the costs of testing will be submitted to insurance companies on behalf of the patients.

“It is Blount Memorial’s understanding that most insurance carriers are covering COVID-19 testing with no out-of-pocket expense,” West said. “However, this is rapidly evolving and every carrier is different, so patients are encouraged to follow up with their insurance provider for specific details.”

Individuals without insurance will be responsible for all testing costs, he said. Blount Memorial has not disclosed the price of the test.

“We encourage anyone in our community, including both insured and uninsured, to review our charity care guidelines with our business office staff or on our website,” West said.

After results of the test are returned, patients will be contacted and given clinical recommendations based on their specific results.

People wishing to be screened should take their IDs and insurance cards to the drive-thru screening center in Alcoa from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 266 Joule St. in Alcoa.

“I want to thank our community for helping us reserve testing materials and resources for those who most need it,” Naramore said. “I’m not surprised, though, because in times of need and concern for our friends and neighbors, Blount Countians always have a special way of responding.”

Follow @sshreports on Twitter for more from county government reporter Shelby Harris.

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