Winter weather temporarily puts ANMC testing site indoors

Officials say winterized drive-thru site coming soon
Alaska Native Medical Center workers lined up and ready to conduct COVID-19 tests at a...
Alaska Native Medical Center workers lined up and ready to conduct COVID-19 tests at a temporary indoor site. They'll be back outside once a winterized drive-thru is set up.(Taylor Clark)
Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 1:59 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Even though the first outdoor COVID-19 testing site opened while there was plenty of snow on the ground, it’s different going into the winter than coming out. At the Alaska Native Medical Center, the dropping temperatures caused testing to be temporarily moved inside part of the main building off Ambassador Drive.

“We need different structures in order to go through the drive-thru for winter than what we used previously,” said Hospital Administrator Dr. Bob Onders. "Our staff were more outside previously and we can’t do that through the winter so we have to change the design.”

Now, he said engineers are working on getting a winterized, outdoor drive-thru site set up. The plan is to have it up and running by Nov. 2, according to Onders.

Onders said the amount of testing done at ANMC hasn’t slowed down. In fact, it’s going up along with the recent weeks' rising case numbers.

Onders said they know how to do indoor testing safely, but outdoor testing has proven to be superior in both safety and efficiency.

"Them parking, getting out of their car, moving into the building and moving back out creates a challenge in logistics,” he said.

The temporary site works how we’ve come to expect: folks wait outside and blow their nose before going in to fill out the paperwork, they walk along the line with social distancing markers on the ground then provide a sample to the workers in the back. Workers on site said most people are in and out of the facility within minutes.

Onders said the switch was sudden and it had to be done quickly. He expressed that there could have been serious hiccups had the staff not been so quick to move.

“I think that the nursing staff here, the other staff that support the nursing staff here have been incredible in their ability to be flexible in order to meet the needs of the people we serve,” he said.

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