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'We're ready to test': State holds drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinic in Columbia

Audrey Stanard
The Columbia Missourian
Mizzou North’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing site is open on Tuesday in Columbia. Patients can enter from Garth Road and pull through the path marked by cones.

Traffic was slow Tuesday afternoon in Mizzou North’s parking lot. Cars followed orange cones that led the way to a small garage. Inside, a handful of NextGen Diagnostic Services staff waved in cars of people looking for a COVID-19 test.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is offering free drive-thru COVID-19 testing in Columbia from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Tuesday through Feb. 22. The drive-thru site is at 115 W. Business Loop 70, behind Mizzou North.

The site does not require an appointment and is free to everyone, regardless of if they have symptoms. Patients can expect results no earlier than 72 hours after taking the PCR test. To access the site, drive on North Garth Avenue and go to the parking lot behind Mizzou North

Testing services have declined after health departments switched their focus to giving out vaccinations. Now, the demand for testing has gone up, putting a strain on resources.

“So, when we were hit with this last surge, testing wasn’t readily available in many areas,” said Nanda Nunnelly, owner of NextGen Diagnostic Services. “So I think the significance of it is that we’re here. We’re ready to test.”

Audrey Stanard
The Columbia Missourian
Health care workers Kimberly Avalos, left, and Dominic Davis sit in the break room Tuesday in Columbia. The two phlebotomists discussed the importance of being tested when exposed to COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Nunnelly and other NextGen workers performed over 200 tests. Kimberly Avalos, a NextGen phlebotomist, said 200 was an average number compared to what they usually perform at a drive-thru clinic.

According to the city of Columbia, there were 3,461 active COVID-19 cases in Boone County and 14 hospitalized Boone County citizens as of its most recent update Thursday.

“It’s really important that people have access to these kinds of things,” Avalos said. “We do this from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. so it gives people a window to come in before work, on their lunch, after work, whenever is good for them.”

Anthony Thessler went to the site Tuesday to get his son Justin Thessler tested after he was exposed to someone with COVID-19. Anthony Thessler said finding a test wasn’t difficult. While Anthony and Justin Thessler have gotten the vaccine, they also later contracted COVID-19 with short-lived symptoms. People who are vaccinated can still get COVID-19, but the symptoms are often less severe.

“The first time we had COVID, it lasted us about a week — the symptoms did because we got vaccinated,” Anthony Thessler said. “We think that the vaccine is kind of misleading in its name, but we think it does work for the symptoms.”

The Health Department also offers an at-home PCR test ordering program, but there are a limited number of tests available each day through January. Four free rapid antigen COVID-19 tests per household are available nationwide by ordering at covidtests.gov.

Lauren Hines is a reporter and producer at KBIA.
The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.