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MU Health Opens Drive-Through COVID-19 Testing

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia
MU Health staff collect samples for COVID-19 tests behind the Hearnes Center in Columbia.

MU Health Care started drive-through testing for COVID-19 in the parking lot of the Mizzou softball stadium. The system announced the station will be open for testing from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, including on the weekend. 

Anyone wanting to get a test will first need an order from a healthcare provider. MU Health is offering free virtual screenings for people who think they may have the disease on its website

GeneTrait Laboratories, based in Columbia, will be processing the tests for MU Health. According to GeneTrait spokesperson Tim McCarty, the lab can currently run 400 tests a day, with a turnaround time of as little as four hours. McCarty said they will be scaling their testing over the course of the week, and hope to be running 1,000 tests a day soon. 

The private labs that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has contracted with, Quest and LabCorp, have seen turnarounds of three to four days with their tests. According to McCarty, GeneTrait's quick turnaround times are largely down to shipping and transport of samples: because GeneTrait is locally based, couriers can run samples straight over from MU Health. 

The announcement of the partnership Tuesday night coincides with the start of MU Health's drive-through testing. A spokesperson for MU Health said the testing, which is set up in the Mizzou Softball Stadium parking lot, will run every day from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Those tests will only be available to people who have an order from their healthcare provider. 

GeneTrait is a subsidiary of PTC Laboratories, which specializes in forensic DNA testing and relationship testing - such as paternity and maternity tests, among other things. Staff members include prominent University of Missouri faculty, such as Medical Genetics Department Chair Judith Miles and Biochemistry Graduate Studies Chair Charlotte Phillips. 

McCarty said switching over to running COVID-19 tests wasn't a major adjustment. "It was very easy to implement these types of protocols and procedures to become compliant and do things safely and properly," he said. However, he did say GeneTrait faces similar bottlenecks to other labs running COVID-19 tests when it comes to supplies, especially the swabs used to collect samples.  

Sebastián Martínez Valdivia was a health reporter at KBIA and is documentary filmmaker who focuses on access to care in rural and immigrant communities. A native Spanish speaker and lifelong Missouri resident, Sebastián is interested in the often overlooked and under-covered world of immigrant life in the rural midwest. He has a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri and a master's degree in documentary journalism at the same institution. Aside from public health, his other interests include conservation, climate change and ecology.
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