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75th Medical Group runs drive-thru COVID-19 testing for deployers

  • Published
  • By Cynthia Griggs
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- During the COVID-19 pandemic, the military continues to successfully execute its mission, finding innovative ways to accomplish it during a new normal.

The same is true for medics with the 75th Medical Group at Hill Air Force Base. They recently established a special COVID-19 drive-thru screening and testing line for Airmen with the 421st Fighter Squadron to get them out the door healthy and safe for a deployment.

Pre-pandemic, Airmen would congregate at a building and process one-by-one through a line, stopping at different stations to ensure their immunizations, public health and other records were in order before they deployed.

In order to maximize social distancing due to COVID-19, the 75th MDG scheduled Airmen to go through its medical pre-deployment screening and testing line all while remaining in their personal vehicles.

The line consisted of three stations:

At station one, Airmen received a temperature check and all medical documents necessary for the upcoming deployment were verified.

In the next step, medics performed a nasopharyngeal swab Airman to test for COVID-19.

At the third station, Airmen with any outstanding requirements were directed to park and go into the clinic to complete it. Those who didn’t require additional actions were given further pre-deployment quarantine instructions and exited the line.

Capt. Pedro Rivera, 75th MDG laboratory and radiology flight commander, said the drive thru line was practiced three times before it occurred. The practice along with local hospital and laboratory coordination helped ensure the line was safely and efficiently handled.

“Collaboration with all sections was imperative,” he said. “Medics were trained prior to collection to ensure both safety for patients and medics while the laboratory staff made sure to meet specimen and collection requirements, and coordinated with the reference laboratory for quick processing.”

Rivera said each Airmen only spent about six to 10 minutes in the line. The entire process was completed in less than five hours.

“The ingenuity of our personnel is outstanding,” said Col. Mark Cleveland, 75th MDG commander. “When you can just provide the vision and then get out of their way and watch what happens, you usually find yourself amazed at the results.”

Cleveland mentioned the medical group is doing everything they can to lower the virus risk to their patient population and personnel. He said every procedure that can be done safely is still being accomplished at the clinic.

“It may take an extra minute to get in the doors, but once inside, you can expect the same great service from the professionals as you did prior to COVID-19,” said Cleveland.

Editor's note: If a Hill AFB beneficiary believes they have signs and symptoms of COVID-19, the first thing they should do is call the COVID-19 base hotline 801-777-7934 or the appointment line 801-586-CARE. The beneficiary will be screened over the phone and directed to a convenient testing location such as the Layton Clinic drive thru if they meet testing criteria.

The beneficiary’s provider staff will then place the order and send (fax it to the Layton Clinic) it before patient arrival. Upon completion of testing, results are faxed to the 75th MDG and then entered into the patient’s medical record. Patient contact will be made by the provider staff if a positive COVID-19 result is received.