WASILLA — As cases of COVID-19 in Alaska continue to rise, more people are picking up the phone to see if they need to be tested.
Capstone Clinic off Seward Meridian recently opened a special testing unit in their parking lot. It’s open seven days a week offering drive-through testing for coronavirus.
Those who are looking to get tested are asked to call ahead of time and complete the pre-registration process.
Dr. Wade Erickson said it’s been very busy and he’s seen all kinds of respiratory cases, from influenza to double pneumonia.
“I like to call it a respiratory illness diagnostic and treatment center,” Erickson said. “Basically we can handle anything that’s repository right now. When they call, we will send them through an algorithm basically that will help treat their symptoms and treat them. If they qualify for COVID testing per the state’s recommendations, they will get a COVID test. If they don’t, then we help them figure out what else it may be.”
Capstone is currently handling patients with regular appointments over the phone. Patients visiting for coronavirus have a designated parking area and can expect the process to take about 30 to 45 minutes depending on their symptoms and risk level.
“Our MA’s who are doing the testing, they’ll take a little iPad out and they walk over to the patient and give them the iPad and it’s got my pretty face on it,” Erickson said.
Erickson talks to patients in real time from inside their vehicles. The staff are dressed head to toe in protective gear whenever they venture out to a person’s car or work inside the isolation room inside the mobile unit.
Capstone has already offered these “telemedicine” services but recent events has prompted them to utilize their resources like never before. They moved equipment from Anchorage to handle the massive demand for testing which only grows day by day.
“This can be done now in a safe environment for the patients and for our staff and for our providers through this mechanism that we’ve developed here,” Erickson said.
Erickson said the goal is to keep people out of the hospital. He said Capstone’s efforts keeps Mat-Su Regional Medical Center clear and avoids dwindling their supplies.
As citizens, the best thing to do (besides getting tested if need be) is following the state and federal recommendations to prevent further spread of coronavirus, according to Erickson.
“We can’t encourage enough the physical distancing and the staying at home quarantines. That right now— to flatten the curve, is to reiterate what everyone has said— is really important,” Erickson said.
Erickson doesn’t like the term “social distancing.” He prefers to say “physical distancing” because in this uncertain time with people quarantined inside their homes, social connection is crucial.
“I say physical distancing because I’m a big fan of social interaction,” Erickson said. “We need to interact to keep our sanity, but just need to interact this far apart.”
The coronavirus situation is ever changing and Capstone meets every day to talk about the new changes and what tomorrow may look like.
“It’s all what the governor says. If the daycares shut down, we’ll lose half our staff,” Erickson said.
Erickson said they’ve received numerous resumes from people in the community without childcare needs.
There’s a lot of interest. Capstone received 40 resumes just on March 23 alone He said they’ll put calls out for staff when needed.
“There could come a time when we ask for volunteers, providers to help out if it really gets to be too difficult for us,” Erickson said. “We’re trying to plan for the worst case scenario but we’re hoping for the best right?”
Valley residents looking to be tested can call Capstone 907-864-4642. The clinic is located inside the Meridian Medical Plaza at 3122 East Meridian Park Loop.
The coronavirus testing unit is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org