- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 6, 2022

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that the state will open COVID-19 testing sites outside of hospitals to help relieve emergency rooms, where patients are flocking to get tests.

The setup of 10 sites aims to help meet the demand for testing and divert people from visiting emergency rooms to get a COVID-19 test, the Republican governor said.

By the end of next week, the state will have 10 hospital-based testing sites up and running: the University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center, the UM Charles Regional Medical Center in La Plata, UM Capital Region Medical Center in Largo, Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham, Meritus Health in Hagerstown, Frederick Health, UM Medical Center in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Medstar St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown and Northwest Hospital in Randallstown.

Maryland, with the help of the federal government, also will open a site at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, Mr. Hogan said.

The sites will operate as walk-up or drive-thru facilities seven days a week. No appointments are needed. The state opened two sites last week at UM Upper Chesapeake Health and Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center.

Since opening the Upper Chesapeake testing site, emergency room visits have dropped 72%, Mr. Hogan said. 

Earlier this week, Mr. Hogan declared a 30-day state of emergency as state officials project that COVID-19 hospitalizations will reach a record of more than 5,000. 

He also activated 1,000 National Guard members to assist with the COVID-19 emergency response, including 250 to support testing sites across Maryland.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam also announced new community testing sites on Thursday.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will open nine sites that will offer PCR tests throughout the state. The department will fund the centers with an initial $5 million, which the agency will seek reimbursement for from the federal government.

“Testing is a critical tool in our fight against COVID-19, and we must continue to do everything we can to increase access,” Mr. Northam said in a statement. “As Virginians continue to grapple with a national shortage of rapid tests, expanding our PCR capabilities will ensure more Virginians have access to free, reliable testing and can better protect themselves and their families.”

The testing locations will be near or at the same places as existing VDH Community Vaccination Centers (CVCs) in Charlottesville, Chesterfield, Fairfax, Fredericksburg, Newport News, Norfolk, Prince William, Richmond and Roanoke that have been operating since October.

Officials anticipate the new testing centers will administer more than 50,000 tests this month. The nine sites will be open four to six days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., depending on the location. The first site will open Saturday at the Richmond International Raceway.

In the District, the federal government opened a testing site at Judiciary Square along F Street NW. The site offers PCR testing and is open seven days a week between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Rapid antigen tests also are being distributed at nine D.C. public libraries: Mt. Pleasant Library, West End Library, Cleveland Park Library, Petworth Library, Woodridge Library, Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Library, Southwest Library, Capitol View Library and Anacostia Library.

Echoing other officials’ messages, D.C. Health Department official Patrick Ashley urged people to not visit hospitals for COVID-19 testing.

“We see a large number of individuals who are still presenting at our emergency rooms trying to get a COVID test. Emergency rooms are for emergencies,” Mr. Ashley said. “We want to make sure we’re saving that capacity for people who are truly having life-threatening emergencies.”

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Shen Wu Tan can be reached at stan@washingtontimes.com.

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