UnityPoint Health encourages asymptomatic patients to undergo COVID-19 tests away from hospitals

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DES MOINES, Iowa — If you’re in need of a COVID-19 test, but are not feeling any serious symptoms, some healthcare leaders are now recommending you get tested away from hospital facilities.

Dr. Clint Hawthorne, who directs the emergency departments at UnityPoint Health’s Des Moines hospitals, says the effort spent on testing asymptomatic patients should go towards saving the lives of COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit.

“If you are sick, then that’s simple: You stay at home and get tested,” Hawthorne said. “If you’re feeling ill, then we’re here, but if you’re feeling like, ‘I just need to get a test,’ there’s lots of places that can provide just a test.”

Among those places is GS Labs, a Nebraska-based COVID testing lab with a testing site across from Valley West Mall in West Des Moines.

GS Labs medical director Darin Jackson, MD said the busy season for testing is underway due to the holidays.

“There’s still a need,” Jackson said. “Our numbers are up 50 to 60 percent in the last couple of weeks.”

Jackson said his facility now administers about 300 tests a day, but is prepared to handle a thousand tests a day if demand starts to surge even more.

“In these traditional holidays where people want to get together, people want to be as safe as they can,” Jackson said.

Hawthorne said take-home tests from pharmacies and department stores are also recommended, as long as it tells you the results away from Iowa’s busy emergency rooms.

“Almost 30 percent of our beds are allocated towards one disease entity, and that really starts to limit the capabilities to provide for everyone else in the community,” Hawthorne said. “The hospital system and primary care clinics can not be the only place for testing.”

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