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Drive-up coronavirus testing is now available in the DC region

But you still need a prescription from your primary care doctor.

Hospitals and medical groups across the D.C. region are rolling out drive-up coronavirus testing sites, helping to finally ramp up America's ability to test for the virus.

Hundreds of people have already been able to use them.

On top of a parking garage outside Kaiser Permanente's facility in Tysons Corner, Virginia, a dozen dedicated health professionals are now collecting samples from members with a doctor's order for testing.

Dr. Praveen Kache said the drive-up sites have a lot of advantages. "We don't want to expose the members and patients that are inside our buildings to potential COVID-19 patients. So it keeps them safe. It also keeps all the staff safe."

Kaiser has set up five different sites across the region for members with a doctor's prescription for testing. The health maintenance organization has testing sites in Baltimore, Largo, Gaithersburg, Tysons Corner and Woodbridge. 

Patients just stick their nose out the window and workers in protective gear swab through their nasal passages, down to the back of their throats.

Virginia Hospital Center and the Arlington Health Department have now opened another drive-up collection site. People with a doctor's' order and an appointment can be swabbed at a site away from the hospital.

Ismail tried to get tested at the site. He had a prescription, but no appointment. "I am feeling sick," he said, from the far side of the car. "But I don't know if I have the virus or not, so I want to make sure I get checked."

"There is a desire among everyone to get tested immediately," said Melody Dickerson, Chief Nursing Officer at Virginia Hospital Center. "But if you're not symptomatic, there is a high likelihood that you could have a false negative test."

Experts say drive-up testing can still help dramatically flatten the exponential growth of coronavirus cases.

"We are really in that phase where we can make a difference to save hundreds of thousands of lives," said Dr. Kache. "Not just here, but everywhere... It's not too late. We are doing all the right things."

Virginia Hospital Center said it can now process at least six people an hour at the drive-up site. At Kaiser, they say they've already tested more than 200.

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