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BAY COUNTY — Two new drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites are set to open in Lynn Haven and Destin next week.

Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart, which operates the Ascension Sacred Heart Bay hospital in Panama City, will have clinical staff collect nasal swabs from residents who have symptoms of the virus, according to a Thursday press release.

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The Destin testing center will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Mondays and Wednesdays, at Destin Medical Park at 36500 Emerald Coast Parkway on the Okaloosa-Walton county line. Meanwhile, the medical team will provide swab tests to eligible people from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ascension Medical Group’s office at 725 Ohio Ave. in Lynn Haven.

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Testing will be provided at no cost to patients. While the test center will bill insurers, there will be no out-of-pocket cost for people with or without insurance.

The Lynn Haven site will add to the existing Bay County drive thru testing site, opened last month by PanCare Health at the Bay County Fairgrounds in Panama City.

"We are excited and grateful to have this opportunity to expand COVID-19 testing to serve Oklaoosa, Walton and Bay counties," Justin Labrato, chief operating officer of Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart, said in the press release. "More testing is needed to better understand the spread of the virus in the community and break the chain of transmission. Testing identifies individuals with the disease, gets them treatment if needed and isolates them from others so the virus does not spread further."

The two sites will use the same practice model used successfully at Ascension Sacred Heart's drive-through center in Pensacola. People who want to get tested must first call 850-746-2684 in advance to get an over-the-phone screening to determine if they meet criteria for a swab test.

In Pensacola, Ascension Sacred Heart began its first drive-thru center on March 16. Since then, the center has obtained swabs from approximately 3,700 people. About 5% of those people have tested positive for the virus, the press release states.

The two centers will test people who have COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. A priority will be testing healthcare facility workers and first responders with symptoms and people at highest risk for life-threatening complications from the virus.

After swabs are collected at each site, they will be packaged and shipped to an independent lab for analysis. Lab results usually take about five days.

"Expanded testing is an important development in our area's fight against novel coronavirus," said Heath Evans, president of Ascension Sacred Heart Bay. "But testing is just one part of the battle plan. To stop the spread of this highly contagious virus and prevent our hospital from getting hit with a large surge of infected patients, we need the community to support our front-line hospital staff and save lives. Everyone can do that by frequently washing their hands, staying home and following the advice of the health experts."