Express Healthcare off Baltimore Avenue Addresses UMD, Community COVID-19 Concerns via Rapid Tests and Vaccinations
By Chris Barylick
December 16, 2021
Image Credit: Chris Barylick for The Campus Trainer
With the start of UMD’s Christmas vacation only hours away, there’s the question of how to stay safe from COVID-19 this year, especially considering the spread of the new Omicron variant and the fact that thousands of students will be leaving the College Park area, heading home, spending time with friends and family, and heading back again come January. Travel inevitably brings its own health-related risks, and given that no one wants to spend their entire vacation essentially quarantined from others, Express Healthcare may be the best place to head to before you leave town for the break. Just a stone’s throw from campus across Baltimore Avenue at 4701 Melbourne Place (right by Town Hall Liquor and Bar and in the back of the College Park Fire Station), the site has begun offering COVID-19 walk-in and drive through rapid tests and vaccinations. Patients can sign up through the website (expresshealthcaredc.com/contact/) or call 301-345-4000 to book a reservation, wherein they can sign up for COVID PCR, rapid tests, and vaccinations as needed. “We're very aggressive at being able to have folks register online, we have a calling center where we can send people links to register on their phones,” said Ward Rogers, Manager of Express Healthcare’s College Park location. Within a brief tour of the site, Rogers pointed out the registration trailer as well as on-site testing. “All they have to do is show an ID, they get them checked in and the person's straight to the drive through. And from then on, it's just as fast as going to McDonald's.” Rogers also pointed out that the facility has an automated reporting system, and for a polymerase chain reaction test, or PCR test, which identifies genetic material from the COVID-19 virus, the typical turnaround time is within 12 to 24 hours. “We also have expedited testing available for PCR. For somebody, for instance, who has to catch a flight in three hours,” said Rogers, who pointed out that the facility also offers occasional home testing, which can be set up in advance. “When you have a school kid, for instance, who's infected, either with COVID, or flu or whatever, it not just affects the kids, it affects the whole family in their home. So we also offer to go to the home and test the family, not just a COVID or something, we call it a "Combo Test." Rogers also pointed out the low cost of the tests themselves. “The final word with regard to charges on this is insurance is essentially, by federal law, required to pay for it,” said Rogers. “Patients should see no out of pocket cost for that. And insurance will be billed and that would satisfy things. In the case they don't have insurance, there is a federal program for the uninsured. If they have a social security number and a state-issued ID, we can charge that and again, the patient will not see a bill.” When asked as to how the situation at the College Park site was going, Dr. Jamal Fadul, President of Express Healthcare seemed busy, but in control of things. The College Park site, which is currently performing 500 to 600 COVID-19 tests per day, could go up to 1,000 to 1,5000 tests per day if required. “From the experience of the last year with this year, we are expecting the Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year's, we are expecting and are ready to be more busy,” said Fadul. “But the unexpected is that omicron strain, the new mutation is really making that we are way busier than we are expecting. But still we are handling the situation.” Fadul stated that the Omicron strain, which was detected prior to Thanksgiving, is more transmissible, but “not as fatal” as the Alpha and the Delta strains of the COVID-19 virus. He did cite that it’s of greater concern to young children less than five years old given that they aren’t vaccinated and are thus more prone to it. Where University of Maryland students who are about to head off on vacation are concerned, Fadul stated that people could still go out and socialize, but to continue being careful. “You can socialize still, but use sanitization,” he said. “Wear the mask all the time. And the N95 is the best mask, or at least the four layer, as I am wearing right now.” Fadul also suggested that students with small children or seniors within the house should get tested before they return home for the holidays. When asked as to which testing method was the most effective, Fadul recommended the site’s RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) over the antigen tests which have recently become available as an over-the-counter testing method. “It's more sensitive, up to 99.99%. And there's antigen, the antigen is really sensitive and specificity between 80% and 90%. We encounter a lot of false positive and false negatives,” said Fadul. “So even though the antigen can give you the results right away, but we currently have RT-PCR, which can give the result within 35 minutes…but the processing takes about one to two hours.” For Ritesh Verma, a Junior and Computer Science major, the site was welcome news, especially before he looks to head to Toronto, Canada for his winter vacation. “I came to get COVID tested simply because I was exposed to people who could potentially have COVID. So, just to be safe, I came here,” said Verma. “The wait time isn't too bad. All in all, it's a pretty good experience and the test results will come back in two to three hours for the rapid, and for the PCR, 12 to 24, so I'm just waiting on that right now.”
With the semester’s final exams being turned in, final papers being written, and winter vacation/several weeks of freedom just around the corner, please remember to be safe, have fun, and if you need a last minute COVID test, Express Healthcare is right across the street from campus if you need it.