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Mission Delayed: DC National Guard will not assist with new coronavirus drive-thru test site

Children’s National and Kaiser Permanente are the only two facilities in the capital offering drive-thru coronavirus testing.

WASHINGTON — With only two drive-thru coronavirus test sites in the nation’s capital, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office said plans are now scrapped for the D.C. National Guard to assist with the operation of a new drive-thru test site in the District.

The obstacle, according to District officials, is a lack of adequate assistance from the federal government.

"Given that we have not had the support we were anticipating with the federal government, we have decided to move forward," Dr. LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, Director of D.C. Health, said.

The District will instead proceed with plans to develop additional coronavirus testing space on the campus on United Medical Center in Southeast.

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"The leadership of United Medical Center has offered the use of substantial space on their campus that can be used without disruption to their operations and patient care, including emergency services," Dr. Nesbit said. "District government will partner with a local health system to provide the clinical support. The D.C. government will provide testing through the District’s Public Health Lab." 

The D.C. National Guard was in a holding pattern as recently as Wednesday to assist with the operation of a new drive-thru test site at the D.C. Fire Academy.

Bowser has made her frustrations with the federal government clear over the past week, urging authorities to do more in the realms of additional testing and supplies.

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"For too long now, we have been really waiting for a national signal and help, with procurement," Bowser said in a news conference Wednesday. "And we continue to call on the federal government to prioritize procurement, production and distribution across our nation." 

Children’s National and Kaiser Permanente are the only two facilities in the capital offering the relatively convenient form of coronavirus testing. Yet testing at both requires a physician’s note; walk-ins from the general public are not accepted.

Only Kaiser members can be tested at the health-care provider’s facility near Union Station.

Bowser signaled Wednesday that George Washington University Hospital would be ready in the next few days with a facility in Foggy Bottom, and a center in the East End opening in the coming weeks.

Sibley Memorial Hospital is also in the planning stages of developing a coronavirus test site accessible to the public.

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