ROCKFORD — Drive-through testing for COVID-19 will start Friday morning at the University of Illinois College of Medicine.
The college, at 1601 Parkview Ave., has been dubbed "The Triple T Site," for triage, testing and transfer.
Up to 500 tests will be administered from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week for people who have symptoms that could be related to the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
The test will be a self-administered nasal swab, Winnebago County Health Department Administrator Sandra Martell said during a news conference Thursday at the medical school.
"It reduces the need for personal protective equipment," Martell said. "It reduces the risk for both the individuals being tested and the health care providers who are working out here in the open air setting. No appointment will be needed and there’s no need to call ahead."
The tests are free and do not require a physician’s order. Individuals waiting to be tested will be asked to show photo identification.
Results will be available in two to five days.
The testing is being conducted by the College of Medicine through a partnership with the Illinois National Guard, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Winnebago County Emergency Operations Center and the health department.
"Throughout this pandemic, we haven’t had a lot of things to celebrate," Mayor Tom McNamara said. "Today, for just a couple of minutes, we need to pause and celebrate that we did this the Rockford way by collaborating and coming together during difficult times."
To date, fewer than 1% of Winnebago County residents have been tested for the potentially fatal respiratory illness.
"There is a correlation between increased testing and contact tracing and containing the spread of COVID-19," Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney said. "Additionally, there is a direct connection between containing the spread of COVID-19 and being able to safely and responsibly start to reopen business and society. It’s still a long haul but this is a big milestone in the process."
The drive-through site in Rockford and a site in Aurora were announced Wednesday by Gov. JB Pritzker.
The governor on Thursday extended his stay-at-home order with some modifications through May 30. The order has been in place since March 21 and was scheduled to expire on April 30.
The Winnebago County Health Department on Thursday announced an additional 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19, raising the county’s total to 256 confirmed cases.
"We are also seeing a growing percentage of positive tests and they continue to increase," Martell said. "Currently, 16% of all tests that we are submitting are positive. On a positive note, we have no additional deaths being reported today."
Martell said half of the COVID-19 deaths in the county were residents of long-term care facilities or other congregate living situations.
Alden Alma Nelson Manor, Amberwood Care Center, Anam Care, Goldie B. Floberg Center, Peterson Meadows and River Bluff Nursing Home are "locations of concern" according to the health department.
The Rockford Rescue Mission, Milestone and Van Matre Rehabilitation Center are also locations of concern.
Twelve individuals, representing 4.7% of the county’s confirmed COVID-19 cases, have recovered from the respiratory illness.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has established a COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-889-3931. You can also email questions to DPH.Sick@Illinois.gov.
Winnebago County’s COVID-19 hotline is 815-319-6705.
Ken DeCoster: firstname.lastname@example.org; @DeCosterKen