ROCKFORD – You don’t have to have COVID-19 symptoms to be tested for the disease at one regional clinic system as long as you are a nursing home employee, a first responder or an at-risk senior citizen who has been exposed to the new coronavirus

Physicians Immediate Care, which has eight clinics in the region, also tests those who have COVID-19 symptoms.

Individuals over 65 who have conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, and who have had direct exposure to someone with COVID-19, may be tested even if they don’t show symptoms, said Todd Vang, the company’s chief operating officer. First responders include firefighters and police officers.

The Rosemont-based urgent care business has tested thousands of patients for the highly contagious respiratory disease since it began offering a rapid-response test a few weeks ago, Vang said.

About 20% tested positive for COVID-19, Vang said. Those who did were advised to self-isolate at home or, if their symptoms were severe, were referred to hospital emergency departments, he said.

Most insurance plans pay for the testing, and the business accepts some forms of Medicaid coverage used by those with lower incomes, Vang said. The self-pay cost is $165 for the office visit and $75 for the test.

Test availability is limited because of high demand.

Vang said Physicians Immediate Care also examines patients.

"What differentiates us is we want to give them a full exam; it’s not just you show up and get a test," he said.

Here’s how it works at Physicians Immediate Care, which has locations in Rockford, Belvidere, Loves Park, Machesney Park, Freeport, Dixon and DeKalb:

No appointment is necessary. A patient walks into a vestibule at a clinic building, where the patient’s temperature and a brief medical history are taken. The patient returns to their car, and a staff person dressed in protective gear goes to the car and stands outside it to get more family history information. A blood pressure reading is taken, as well as another temperature reading. Both nostrils of the patient’s nose are swabbed. The swab is inserted into a machine and results are available in five to 15 minutes. Patients wait in their cars for the results. The clinic will call a patient to follow up in about three days, if the patient requests that.

Vang said Physicians Immediate Care hopes soon to offer COVID-19 tests in addition to the Abbott Laboratories rapid test it offers now. The clinic system also is checking into offering antibody testing, which could help determine whether a person has recovered from the disease and developed immunity as a result.

But he said there are few such government-approved antibody tests and the clinic system wants to "make sure they’re accurate. Hopefully, there will be improved accuracy."

Georgette Braun:; @GeorgetteBraun