105 tested at mobile site in Copperas Cove
by Brittany Fholer
Residents looking to get tested for the novel coronavirus had the opportunity to do so, without leaving their vehicle, during the mobile testing site held by the Texas Army National Guard at the Copperas Cove Fire Station #2 on F.M. 1113 Monday.
The site in Copperas Cove was one of two in the county on Monday, with a second one held in Gatesville at the same time.
The Texas Army National Guard collected 163 total samples,from 105 residents in Copperas Cove and 58 in Gatesville. Gov. Greg Abbott first activated the Texas Army National Guard back in March, following the first reported death from COVID-19 in Matagorda County.
Since then, the Texas National Guard has been seen throughout the state helping run testing sites and distributing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and more.
1st Lt. Stephanie Jasper’s unit of 17 soldiers collected the samples in Copperas Cove Monday. Deployed from a unit out of Grand Prairie and currently based in Waco, Jasper’s unit joined other units in testing local communities for COVID-19, starting in Grand Prairie before heading down to Gonzales, San Antonio and Austin. Last week, Jasper’s unit ran the testing site in Kempner, she said.
“It’s very rewarding, and I think this specific mission is one of those kinds where it helps the community feel at ease, because this situation is an unknown for everybody and I think that’s why even the military had a hard time kind of grasping ‘How do we combat this?’, and you know, a lot of the strategy was initially looked at from a military, strategic standpoint but this feels a lot different from your typical military mission, I guess,” Jasper said. “It feels like we’re really trying to make a difference. I think people are appreciative, what we’ve seen for the most part is people really appreciating our presence because I know that there was a lot of apprehension when these things first started rolling out. The thing that we like the most is we like coordinating with our local communities- the fire departments, the police departments- they’ve been more than welcoming and making sure that the community knows that we’re here as a welcomed presence.”
While Jasper didn’t say the unit’s next location, she did mention that the group can deploy to anywhere within a 2-hour radius from Waco.
Residents were encouraged to make an appointment prior in order to be seen. Jasper said the group had 126 test kits and had started the day with 44 appointments already made. By early afternoon, another 40 or so people had made more appointments to be tested.
Deputy Fire Chief Gary Young said that the testing site was a great opportunity.
“All Texans need to have that opportunity to obtain the testing if they meet the criteria, no matter if they go to the hospital, doctor’s office or even one of these testing sites,” Young said. “Providing availability to them, our Texans, is very important, so when the city of Copperas Cove was asked if we would participate in this process and be able to host one of the sites, we eagerly said, yes, we would like to make for sure we have that opportunity brought local to our community to give anybody an opportunity that meets the criteria the ability to come in and receive this test and try to reduce and take away any barriers that there may be for them getting a test in any other circumstances.”
These barriers could be cost, time or distance, Young added.
“This test, from the time that somebody arrives until the time that somebody departs is a very short period of time,” Young said.
Some people were tested in as little as six minutes.
“They were in, they were out, and they never left the privacy of their vehicle,” Young said.
At Fire Station #2, soldiers manned checkpoints at the different driveway entrances to the testing site. Vehicles were encouraged to enter one way, where they would be asked if they had an appointment and show their identification card. They would then wait in a line until their vehicle could drive inside the station’s apparatus bay, where more soldiers were waiting to and confirm the person in the vehicle was the person who had made the appointment.
Wearing a white protective suit, gloves and a mask, a soldier gave patients a mask and a tissue before administering the nasal swab, which must be done without touching any part of the vehicle. If the soldier ended up touching the patient or the vehicle, he would need to change his PPE.
After the nasal swab, the collected sample was bagged and labeled, ready to be sent off to a lab to be tested.
“I feel like having another testing location in our community benefits our citizens,” Young said. “There’s more than one testing facility in this community. They can go to a doctor’s office. They can go to an urgent care and receive the test. This just offers them another opportunity to have access to the testing, so they can be able to know for sure what’s going on and they can get some peace of mind with whatever symptoms that they may have.”
Young said that while there were no immediate plans for another testing site like this one, the city of Copperas Cove would welcome a partnership with the state again.