The phones ring constantly at the Collin County locations of Legacy ER & Urgent Care facilities in McKinney, Allen, and Frisco.
“Do you have a fever? How about a cough? Body aches?”
“Did you recently travel anywhere? Were you in contact with anyone else who was sick?”
“How old are you?”
Panicked residents are asking to be tested for COVID-19. Healthcare workers are asking them questions to triage who gets their nose and throat swabbed — and who doesn’t.
Most don’t get tested even though they should, says Dr. Jay Woody, chief medical officer and founder of the centers.
The problem is there are not enough coronavirus test kits. On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that more test kits are coming. But they’re not here yet.
So the six Legacy ER & Urgent Care centers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are doing the next best thing. They have set up drive-through visits at their centers allowing patients to be checked by a physician without getting out of their cars.
“We need to work together as a community and we are doing what we can to help our patients,” Woody says.
A medical technician greets patients as they drive up and takes their vital signs before they are seen by a physician wearing a gown and mask. The new way of interacting with patients, Woody says, calms worried residents and limits possible exposure to others in the waiting room.
More than 30 cars took advantage of the drive-through service Wednesday at one of the two Frisco locations, he says. The clinic also has a location in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where more than 600 cars lined up to see the doctor, he adds.
The service was started this week, taking cue from the thousands of restaurants across Texas who are required to shutter their dine-in services beginning this weekend. The centers began seeing patients in their cars to address a growing demand to see a physician as symptoms present themselves, Woody says.
“We’ve had a good response,” he says. “Unfortunately, supplies are very limited nationwide so it’s impossible to test everyone. We can only test the patients who meet all the [highest at-risk] criteria.”
The problem is the criteria keeps changing. Victims to the virus are not only the elderly. He says he has had to turn down patients who have a cough and who have traveled abroad. Physicians need to be more selective because there aren’t enough tests.
He recommends that everyone limit their contact with others.
About 80 percent who have the virus have no symptoms and have no idea they have it, Woody says.
“That’s a huge problem,” he says. “We’ve got to take this seriously and stay home and look out for each other.”
Have you subscribed to our free weekly newsletter?
If he had his way — and the needed supplies — he says he would test everyone who comes in with symptoms. South Korea tested a million a week, he says. That’s how that country was able to get ahead of the curve.
“If we could test everyone that has symptoms we could identify more people, get them to quarantine and stymy this virus in the United States,” he says.
The number of tests performed at Legacy ER & Urgent Care was not immediately available. Specimens taken require a special test kit that is sent to LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics for evaluation.
Texas is way under the 15,000 to 20,000 tests a week Gov. Abbott set as a goal. While the state is requiring hundreds of thousands of bars and gyms to shut down and restaurants to shutter their dine-in services across the state beginning this weekend, only 2,335 tests were administered statewide as of Wednesday night, according to a tally by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
At least 161 coronavirus cases and three deaths recorded in Texas as of noon March 19, including seven cases and one death in Collin County.
There are many more cases going undetected, Woody says, and that’s a concern.
“There’s no need to panic, but something needs to change when there are thousands of kids on the beach at Spring Break and others not changing the way they interact with others in the middle of a pandemic,” he says. “We’re in this together.”
In addition to the drive-thru, the centers are working to limit exposure to health care workers by asking patients to ask and answer questions electronically on an I-pad before and after their face-to-face visit with a physician. This also cuts down on the use of personal protective equipment a doctor has to use, Woody says. Every time a doctor leaves and re-enters a patient’s room, a change of scrubs, gloves and masks is required.
“Supplies are running low statewide,” he says, adding that he has to constantly be on the lookout for vendors where he can find the needed masks, gowns and face shields for his 400 health care workers at the eight centers to get him through each week.
Although appointments can be made, they are not needed at the Legacy ER & Urgent care centers, founded in 2008 to provide emergency and urgent care under the same roof. Most insurances are taken but patients without insurance will not be turned away, Woody says. The fees at the center are lower than emergency room visits to a hospital, he adds.
The centers are open every day of the week. Check the website for times, which are subject to change.
Here are the locations in the DFW area:
1310 W. Exchange Pkwy., Allen
16151 El Dorado Pkwy., Frisco
9205 Legacy Dr., Frisco
2810 Hardin Blvd., McKinney
3305 Denton Tap Rd., Coppell
8950 N. Tarrant Pkwy., North Richland Hills
Clarification, 3/20, 2:40: The spokesperson for Legacy ER & Urgent Care wants to make it clear that they have adopted new procedures and processes to keep patients and staff safe. If patients are presenting with COVID-19 symptoms, they are instructed to drive around to the outside bay and consult with the care teams. He says that this is not necessarily a COVID-screening process, the top priority is safety.