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OHSU will deploy mobile testing vans statewide

Three vans are available for deployment to communities lacking easy access, starting Jan. 20 in St. Helens
Photo of people around a white van
OHSU health care workers sign in patients to be tested using a newly acquired mobile testing van on Dec. 29 near Hillsboro Stadium. Three vans will be deployed statewide to increase the availability of testing in communities lacking easy access, starting Jan. 20 in St. Helens. (OHSU)

With COVID-19 surging across the country and the state, Oregon Health & Science University will deploy three mobile testing vans to increase the availability of testing in communities lacking easy access.

The first community event will be held Wednesday in Columbia County from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Helens High School.

OHSU health care workers will collect mucus with nasal swabs and send the samples to OHSU’s in-house lab, where they will be tested for genetic material unique to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The test process will follow the protocol already established at OHSU’s two low-barrier mobile testing and flu vaccination sites at the Oregon Convention Center and Hillsboro Stadium.

The vans are outfitted and designed to easily transition to COVID-19 vaccine administration sites over the coming months as vaccine availability ramps up.

Other mobile testing events will be scheduled in coordination with the Oregon Health Authority and health systems across Oregon.

“We’re eager to help out,” said Kevin O’Boyle, OHSU vice president for ambulatory care. “As the state’s academic health center, we want to work really closely with the Oregon Health Authority and all communities throughout Oregon to work through this pandemic.”

The vans were acquired, equipped and ready to deploy thanks to $388,500 in funding from the state Legislature’s Joint Emergency Board. The funding also enables OHSU’s lab to process an additional 500 tests daily, enhancing OHA’s existing regional testing strategy that currently amounts to seven mobile testing units.

Samples collected from the region encompassing the Portland metro area and the north coast will be taken to OHSU’s in-house lab.

O’Boyle said that the types of tests available when the vans deploy elsewhere across the state will depend on the needs of specific communities, the ability to process test results locally, or potentially the ability to courier the samples back to OHSU’s Marquam Hill campus. Since the onset of the pandemic, OHSU has provided test results within 24 to 48 hours of the sample being collected.

The vans were retrofitted with a generator, refrigerator and storage; testing equipment and supplies; and technology that enables the secure registration of patient information.

Similar to the two existing mobile testing sites at the Oregon Convention Center and Hillsboro Stadium, OHSU will bill insurance for those who have it but no one will be turned away as long as they meet OHA criteria for a test.

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