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MUSC now offering drive-thru sample collection in Charleston for coronavirus-like symptoms

People who have a doctor's note to be tested for coronavirus can now have samples collected for testing in a drive-thru at the Medical University of South Carolina.

The drive-thru collection site is at the parking lot of the Citadel Mall campus outside the MUSC Health West Ashley Medical Pavilion. Individuals must have a testing order and a scheduled appointment through the MUSC Health Virtual Urgent Care platform to enter the site. 

After collection, the sample will be sent to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control for testing. Results are usually available within several days, MUSC spokeswoman Heather Woolwine said. MUSC hopes to be able to test for the virus itself within two to three weeks, pending approval from DHEC and other agencies.

At the drive-through, MUSC employees will collect specimens only from patients who have screened into the system as high risk for respiratory illness, including those possibly exposed to the novel coronavirus, a dangerous strain that causes COVID-19. 

Patients won't have to leave their vehicles for the collection.

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The collection isn't free and will be billed to the patient's insurance provider or considered self-pay, officials said in a news release. South Carolina's insurance companies have committed to waive testing expenses for their members. Self-pay would be about $280, Woolwine said, and individuals unable to pay can work with MUSC to address the cost.

MUSC hopes the drive-thru can minimize the risk of patients spreading the virus to others while seeking treatment at a hospital or clinic. Patients can screen themselves online for free at the virtual platform with the promo code "COVID19," then schedule an appointment for testing.

The system is considering adding more locations in the tri-county area and across the state if needed, officials said.

In South Carolina, 10 patients have been identified as having contracted the coronavirus and two of those have been confirmed with COVID-19 by federal health officials. The two confirmed cases are in Kershaw and Charleston counties. Six other cases are in Kershaw County and one each has been reported in Spartanburg and Lancaster counties.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that MUSC is not a testing site. MUSC has applied for permission to test from the Food and Drug Administration, but has not yet received approval.

Reach Fleming Smith at 843-937-5591. Follow her on Twitter at @MFlemingSmith.

Fleming Smith covers crime and public safety for the Charleston area. A native Georgian, she previously covered breaking news and features for The Wall Street Journal and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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