Free drive-through testing site at John Hunt Park backs up traffic

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – With the surge in demand for testing, the City of Huntsville, Thrive Alabama, and Huntsville Hospital teamed up to restart a free, drive-through testing clinic. The number of people who showed up stopped traffic.

Officers said from where the testing site inside John Hunt Park to the street is about half a mile, all so people who don’t have symptoms can get tested further away from the hospital than those who do.

An hour before the COVID-19 drive-through testing site at John Hunt Park was set to open at 1 p.m., Airport Road was backed up. Huntsville Police said people wanting to be tested started lining up before 11 a.m. and had already blocked traffic on Memorial Parkway several times.

Huntsville Hospital medical staff said traffic is what they were trying to avoid at the hospital’s Fever and Flu Clinic, where people with COVID-19 symptoms are tested.

“There’s a lot of patients that are coming to one site and we thought we were getting overrun. We were seeing a lot of volumes,” said Huntsville Hospital Emergency Preparedness Manager Joyce Thomas.

Organizers said the drive-through clinic is for people who want to be tested, but have no symptoms.

“And if the patients that have symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath symptoms can go to our Fever and Flu Clinic on Governors Drive,” said Thomas.

Project Manager John Simms said this is the second time Huntsville Hospital set up a mobile testing clinic. He said the first one ran in March and tested hundreds of people.

“By mid-March the landscape of everything as we know it changed,” said Simms. “So our planning went into more of a COVID response scenario to how we can use these units to support our community COVID screenings.”

Hospital officials said they went back to drive-through testing this week because of the surge in cases. They hope to test 1,000 patients a week.

“We’ll be providing this service as long as there’s a need to do it.”

The testing closed at 5 p.m., but will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Health officials said once you get tested, it’s best to self-quarantine until you get your results. They said that should take about a week.

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