The Medical University of South Carolina opened a free clinic on Wednesday morning in Richland County, encouraging residents to drive through or walk up for COVID-19 testing.
The hospital wants to reach minority patients in an area of the Midlands hit hard by the coronavirus, specifically those who live in the 29203 ZIP code.
The clinic has been set up at Eau Claire High School. Residents who want to be tested do not need a doctor's note. The testing is free. Results will be reported to patients by phone within a few days.
Dr. Ed O'Bryan, executive director of MUSC Health Solutions, said 50 cars had already lined up before the clinic opened at 10 a.m. Seventy-five people were tested within the first 90 minutes, he said.
"We're not turning anyone away," O'Bryan said.
African Americans have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, O'Bryan said, and experts want to better understand why. Part of the problem, he said, is that testing has so far been inadequate. This clinic is attempting to solve that problem.
"We have plans to expand it to the rest of the state rapidly," O'Bryan said. MUSC will open three similar clinics this week. The locations have not been announced, but they will likely be located close to patients who struggle to afford medical treatment or lack transportation.
The effort has been a collaboration of MUSC, Doctors Care, law enforcement and school officials, said S.C. House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia. The hospital was encouraged to launch the clinic by both Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature, he said.
"I've been in the Legislature since 1998. This is the first time I've seen a collaboration like this," he said. "(The clinic) needed to happen, and it needed to happen now."
He said residents in 29203 have long been "ignored by the health care community." He watched cars lining up for the COVID-19 clinic at 8 a.m., two hours before it opened. By 2:30 p.m., the line had wrapped around the block.