At the direction of Mayor Sandy Stimpson, the city of Mobile has set up two drive-in COVID-19 testing sites in Midtown and West Mobile, though it has yet to obtain the test kits themselves.
City spokesman George Talbot said the two sites will be located at Ladd-Peebles Stadium and the Grounds off Zeigler Blvd. There are currently no test kits available at the sites, but Talbot said the city should have kits soon enough to begin testing in the coming days.
“The sites will open as soon as we get test kits,” Talbot told Lagniappe. “We’ve actively been working on that all day today and there’s no news yet. We believe we’ll have some good news soon. We’re going through every avenue available to us.”
The kits are likely coming through public and private sources, and while there have been federal and state funds set aside to fund COVID-19 testing efforts, Talbot said the city is prepared to pay for the kits and protective equipment if need be. The Mobile City Council does not have to approve the payment due to the local health emergency the body declared on Tuesday.
The announcement comes a day after Stimpson criticized the Mobile County Health Department for not more quickly enough to acquire tests. MCHD officials said they requested tests multiple times but those orders were canceled or redirected by the Centers for Disease Control.
The lack of testing supplies is a familiar problem for public officials around the country as many of the supplies made available through the “Strategic National Stockpile” maintained by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are being directed to the hardest hit areas.
According to Talbot, members of Stimpson’s administration have been engaging federal, state and local officials to obtain COVID-19 tests for the Mobile area with assistance from former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin. In a statement Thursday, Stimpson said the establishment of testing sites is a proactive step to ensure there are no delays once test kits are received.
“We will not stop until we have them. To make sure we are prepared, I’ve asked our partners to make sure that healthcare professionals are ready now to begin testing as soon as test kits are available,” he said.
Talbot said the sites will be “drive-up” like sites that have been seen in other areas of the state. Members of the Mobile Police Department are currently running through traffic control scenarios to prepare for what could be an influx of motorists converging on those areas to receive testing.
“We’ve seen what’s occurred in other cities with traffic congestion,” he said.
In all, the city has set up everything it needs to begin testing, but currently doesn’t have personnel to administer the tests, Talbot said. The city will approach MCHD personnel about it, but has alternatives prepared. State Rep. Shane Stringer noted on Facebook that a test site was coming to North Mobile County, but hasn’t released details about where it will be located or when testing will begin.
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