JUNE 23, 2020 – During the COVID-19 pandemic, the military continues to successfully execute its mission by finding innovative ways to accomplish it during a new normal.
The 75th Medical Group at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, recently established a COVID-19 drive-thru screening and testing line for airmen with the 421st Fighter Squadron to get them out the door healthy and safe for deployment.
Prior to the pandemic, airmen would congregate at a building and be processed one by one through a line, stopping at different stations to ensure their immunizations, public health and other records were in order before they deployed.
To maximize social distancing due to COVID-19, the 75th Medical Group scheduled airmen to go through its medical predeployment screening and testing line while remaining in their personal vehicles.
The line consisted of three stations. At station one, airmen received a temperature check and all medical documents necessary for the upcoming deployment were verified. At the next station, medics performed a nasopharyngeal swab to test for COVID-19. At the third station, airmen with any outstanding requirements were directed to park and go into the clinic to complete them. Those who didn’t require additional actions were given further predeployment quarantine instructions and exited the line.
Air Force Capt. Pedro Rivera, the laboratory and radiology flight commander for the 75th Medical Group, said the drive-thru line was practiced three times before it was executed. The practice, along with local hospital and laboratory coordination, helped ensure the line was safely and efficiently handled, he said.
“Collaboration with all sections was imperative,” he added. “Medics were trained prior to collection to ensure safety for patients and medics, while the laboratory staff made sure to meet specimen and collection requirements and coordinated with the reference laboratory for quick processing.”
Rivera said each airman spent only six to 10 minutes in the line, and the entire process was completed in less than five hours.
“The ingenuity of our personnel is outstanding,” Air Force Col. Mark Cleveland, the 75th Medical Group commander, said. “When you can just provide the vision and then get out of their way and watch what happens, you usually find yourself amazed at the results.”
Cleveland noted that the medical group’s people are doing everything they can to lower the virus risk to their patient population and personnel, and that every procedure that can be done safely is still being accomplished at the clinic.
“It may take an extra minute to get in the doors, but once inside, you can expect the same great service from the professionals as you did prior to COVID-19,” Cleveland said.
(Cynthia Griggs is assigned to the 75th Air Base Wing.)
BY CYNTHIA GRIGGS