Ascension Sacred Heart offers Saturday rapid testing for COVID

On Saturday, Nov. 7, Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart will offer rapid COVID-19 testing as well as the more common test that requires nasal swabs to be sent to a certified hospital laboratory for analysis.

The two types of tests will be provided at Ascension Sacred Heart’s drive-thru center off Bayou Boulevard in Pensacola from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday, but all interested persons must be screened in advance by first calling 850-746-2684.

The rapid COVID-19 testing is being performed in partnership with Escambia County and Community Health Northwest Florida. The county allocated federal CARES Act funds to support the purchase of Abbott ID NOW rapid test kits.

While the Abbott nasal swab test can produce results within 15 minutes, it is most accurate when used on persons who have symptoms of COVID-19. The Abbott rapid test offers the opportunity to quickly identify positive cases, isolate those people and thus slow the spread of the virus.

In comparison, the traditional PCR test that is considered the “gold standard” test for persons who are hospitalized or without COVID-19 symptoms is very accurate, but it takes longer. Lab results can be returned from Ascension Sacred Heart’s laboratory in Pensacola within 48 hours.

For Saturday’s testing, the rapid test will be provided at no cost, but it will be reserved for residents of Escambia County who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. The rapid test is more valuable and accurate when testing symptomatic patients only; the fast results limit an infected person’s exposure to others.

For anyone without symptoms or for people from outside Escambia County, the drive-thru center will offer the PCR test that is sent to the lab.

Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart began the area’s first drive-thru testing center on March 16. Since then, its team has continued to serve the community by providing tests to more than 42,000 people.

Note: Earlier today, I heard from hospital officials who assured me that the Ascension  Sacred Heart has the capacity to test more people, and the results of the rapid testing were derived to the patient within an hour.