JoCo health department conducts first drive-thru COVID-19 testing operation, 3 more in the works

The health department Monday reported a cumulative total of 844 positive COVID-19 cases and 63 deaths among Johnson County residents. JCDHE Director Sanmi Areola said he expected to see a spike in cases after shelter-in-place restrictions were lifted. File photo.

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The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment Friday morning conducted the first drive-thru COVID-19 test site to randomly sample Johnson County residents.

The health department invited more than 500 residents to the College Boulevard Activity Center, 11031 S. Valley Road, to test them for the novel coronavirus. JCDHE Director Sanmi Areola said this will give the department a better idea of how many people are infected — whether they’re symptomatic or not — in an effort to protect the county’s most vulnerable populations.

Johnson County residents lined up at the College Boulevard Activity Center Friday morning to participate in the county’s first COVID-19 testing site. Johnson County wants to administer random coronavirus tests on 2,000 total residents throughout the course of four drive-thru events.

“You and I need to understand that we may not fall sick, but if we spread it to people that are more susceptible, then they are going to get sick,” Areola said. “Our responsibility is not just to ourselves, but to the community. We are hoping to curtail the spread to minimize the risk of exposure and consequently reduce the risk of really serious consequences for our residents.”

The county worked with ETC Institute, an Olathe-based marketing company, to create a random sampling of residents based on demographics such as age, ethnicity and race, Areola said.

The county will supplement the random sampling with its ongoing community health survey which asks whether residents have shown symptoms, he said. This is the first of four similar events, which will occur every two weeks with a goal of testing 500 people each time, he said.

Areola said both asymptomatic and symptomatic people were present, as four out of five people infected with COVID-19 were infected by someone who did not show symptoms.

Those who test positive for COVID-19 will be contacted by JCDHE and asked to self isolate, and people they have been in contact with will be asked to self quarantine, he said. The drive-thru testing isn’t just about getting an idea of how the virus is moving through Johnson County, but also to contain the spread.

“We need to be confident that we are at a place where the virus is not just going to run wild in our community,” Areola said. “This [drive-thru test site] will help.”

To limit interaction Areola said those being tested were given a QR code to scan with their windows rolled up. No one was allowed out of their vehicles and windows were only rolled down while JCDHE staff took the actual test, he said.

Data collected from the drive-thru test site sample will be shared with the public via the county’s COVID-19 update webpage — the same method used to inform the public about the 2,000+ negative tests in the county, he said.