A weekend trial run has paved the way for full implementation of Rochester’s third COVID-19 testing site this week.

“We were very pleased at everything we learned and found out through that process,” Dan Jensen, operation section chief for Olmsted County’s incident command, said of the two-day pilot project held over the weekend.

The pilot project ran 19 people — seven on Saturday and 12 on Sunday — through a COVID-19 testing site at Graham Park.

Jensen said the two-day effort was intended to identify possible challenges to running the site, which was created through a county partnership with Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center.

He said minor adjustments were made and reviewed each day.

“In the midst of all of that, the things that were coming out were surprisingly minor,” he said, adding that changes included increasing the size of traffic cones and adding a clock to one of the stops in the park.

Dr. Randy Hemann, OMC's chief medical officer, didn't participate in the pilot project over the weekend, but he did observe. 

"It was pretty impressive," he said, adding that it was good to see the collaboration work toward a common goal. 

With the concerns identified, Olmsted County Public Health opened the site Monday, and it’s expected to operate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily through Tuesday.

Mayo Clinic already operates two testing sites: a drive-through outside Mayo Family Clinic Northwest at 4111 U.S. Highway 52 N. and a walkup location in an empty parking lot at the corner of Third Avenue and Fourth Street Southwest.

All sites require a call to a primary care provider for a phone screening to determine if testing for COVID-19 is appropriate.

Olmsted Medical Center patients can call a special COVID-19 screening line —  507-292-7266 — between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Mayo Clinic patients are encouraged to call their primary care providers.

Screening typically involves questions about how a person is feeling to determine whether potential signs of COVID-19 exist.

Once confirmed appropriate for testing, Jensen said where a person is referred for likely will depend on individual circumstances.

“I believe this will remain the only site for non-Mayo Clinic patients to come through,” Jensen said of the Graham Park testing site.

That would mean most Olmsted Medical Center, Community Health Services and Zumbro Valley Health Center patients will be seen at the new site. At the same time, Jensen said the downtown Mayo Clinic site remains the only one catering to people without cars.

Hemann said OMC patients were being sent to Mayo Clinic sites prior to the opening of a new site, and they likely will continue to be if it's the best fit. Monday, he said 34 OMC patients were tested at Graham Park. 

Jensen said he believes the addition of a third testing site likely has the community covered for the upcoming needs.

“Everything that we’ve been able to determine at this point, we believe the three sites will be able to manage the types of individuals that we’re needing to serve … and the volumes we’ll be seeing,” he said, noting no limits have been set on numbers that can be tested.

Hemann agreed, saying the site provides flexibility to expand hours and move more patients through the process, if needed. 

"The scalability lies in the fairgrounds," he said.

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