EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
In only two days, 96th Medical Group employees performed 338 COVID-19 tests for all 7th Special Forces Group Soldiers returning from a deployment via a drive-thru testing center - the Diagnostic Testing Center.
The DTC, which opened in March, only tests for COVID-19 to help ease the strain of testing everybody in the hospital. The medical group’s leadership utilized employees from all five of the group’s squadrons to provide manpower to the effort.
The tests took place Aug. 3 and 10 with 161 and 177 Soldiers tested, respectively. That is a more than an 88% increase in the DTC’s previous peak two days. Testing the 338 Soldiers was such an undertaking, 7th SFG even provided medics to help with the workload.
“7th SFG medics and 96th MDG personnel performed this operation in order to protect service members and the community,” said Maj. Ashley Reyes, 96th Medical Group. “COVID-19 impacted the entire country and we are doing our part to prevent it from spreading.”
Although the Soldiers were not symptomatic, the goal was to determine how many people on their plane had COVID-19 upon landing in the U.S. This knowledge allows personnel to know who initially carried it. This facilitates contact tracing if someone becomes symptomatic, gets tested, and tests positive later, according to Reyes.
“Since they were on the plane together, contact tracing would be more difficult and they could be getting COVID-19 from each other and not just from being in the area of responsibility,” said Reyes.
There are two types of tests performed at the DTC, the nasopharyngeal wash and the swab. Both are viral tests that determine if someone has a current SARS-CoV-2 infection - the virus that causes COVID-19.
While the DTC performed nasopharyngeal wash tests routinely, the swab test was used for the Soldiers instead, because it was quicker and required less processing before shipment.
For the wash test, patients tilt their head back slightly, inject saline into one nostril, ensure the specimen drains down the chin, and into a cup. This is repeated again in the other nostril.
The wash and swab tests are sent to either Wright Patterson AFB or Keesler AFB medical laboratories for analysis.
Swab tests can be analyzed at Eglin’s lab as well, but these are reserved for patients admitted to the hospital or who need immediate results due to deployments or a medical procedure. All individuals tested can get their results via Tricare Online or their primary care physician.
Currently, the DTC completes all of Eglin’s COVID-19 tests for individuals that are symptomatic and at low risk of getting severe complications. Personnel are also tested because they were in close contact with someone who tested positive (and became symptomatic themselves), have a medical procedure planned, are deploying, returning from deployment, going TDY, or PCSing. To date Eglin’s DTC accomplished 4,000 COVID-19 tests.
Individuals cannot go directly to the DTC for testing. Patient procedures for appointments, etc., have not changed. See available link on those procedures.