COVID-19 testing van hits the road to reach vulnerable Vermonters

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BURLINTON, VT- A key element in the fight against COVID-19 is testing people living in at-risk situations. When you’re homeless, access to testing is limited.

That’s why the Community Health Centers of Burlington started an outreach testing van focused on testing individuals experiencing homelessness, vulnerable individuals in shared living situations and those without transportation.

The Champlain Valley Housing Trust purchased and loaned the van to CHCB. The Vermont Department of Health provided the tests. Community Medical Director Dr. Heather Stein said they needed to come up with a solution to test people who are homeless or don’t have a car.

“The other testing sites are doing  a great job of meeting most of the needs of the county, but the model of their testing is set up with the assumption that the person has a vehicle that they can stay in,” she said. “But for somebody who doesn’t have a vehicle or is homeless it’s harder for them to use that system,” said Stein.

The testing van drives to different locations throughout the Burlington area according to identified needs.

“We are collecting reports and orders from people like… I know this person here and I know this person there… and they will try to group them so that it makes sense for efficiency,” said Stein.

Stein said they are still working out details. However, she said it is best to test people outside. On Thursday the van tested people at Harbor Place, a motel on Shelburne Road.

“Each person had their own door. So, they were able to park and get into PPE and get the testing supplies ready,” said Stein. “Then they go up to each person’s door who had already been selected for testing or we knew had a need for testing, and then they were able to have that person come outside.”

Patients do need an order from a physician or another medical provider to be tested.

 “At the moment all of our testing sites actually have a medical provider who is doing the testing, so they can either take orders from other staff people or other people in the area. Or they can order it themselves,” said Stein.

The Community Health Centers of Burlington said they are not currently billing clients or insurance providers for the outreach testing service.

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