In the distance, a car pulls into the Walmart parking lot and circles to the farthest end, where a few small signs point the way to the COVID-19 testing site that opened on May 4.
“STOP HERE,” one reads, and the car idles as the driver scans the QR code provided to register. The driver is wearing a mask and has their printed test voucher with them to prove that they have already made an appointment by completing an online quiz for symptoms. The quiz has told them that they meet the CDC criteria for a test, and soon they are ushered forward through a boundary of orange traffic cones that surround a miniature mobile unit marked “Authorized Personnel Only” to receive their COVID-19 test.
McKinney Mayor George Fuller explains that the testing site came to be because a McKinney local and Walmart employee contacted him on Facebook to tell him that Walmart wanted to establish a drive-thru site in the area.
“Within a few hours, we had an MOU (memorandum of understanding) signed, followed by a formal agreement within a day,” Fuller says. “Bottom line, Walmart was tremendously responsive and streamlined the process to get us up and running quick.”
There’s no reason for a person to leave the car or get close to the Walmart at the intersection of Custer Road and Highway 380. Those being tested are required to wear a mask and instructed not to leave their cars. They must provide ID, and then they will be given a self-administered nose swab. A trained medical volunteer guides them through the process of shoving it up their nose. The sealed sample is then dropped into a container, and the testee is free to move on with their day.
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“Comprehensive testing is still not available, and as a result, we are navigating without a map,” Fuller says. “However, despite all of that, McKinney residents have come together strongly in support of one another, and, for the most part, continue to exercise safe practices.”
This site, he hopes, will help Collin County officials create that map to see how far they have to go.
The mobile testing site is courtesy of eTrueNorth, which handles all of the processing and communicates the results to those tested as well as various Departments of Health. Based in Mansfield, the company partners with pharmacies around the country to provide greater access to healthcare services. They have opened about 7,500 mobile testing locations like the one in McKinney.
Texas currently ranks low in terms of COVID-19 testing. Only about 407,000 tests have been conducted, according to the COVID Tracking Project by The Atlantic. In terms of tests per day, Texas has tested about 20,000 people, though Abbott promised that it will soon exceed 25,000.
Fuller acknowledges that that the testing site is only possible because of the Walmart staff member who reached out to him on Facebook: “I also appreciate the communication that takes place between me and my constituents that results in community solutions as this did.”
Testing is only available from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the parking lot of the Walmart store located at 1721 N. Custer Rd., McKinney. For questions regarding testing, call 800-635-8611.