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Photos: Testing Pods#1, Testing Pods #2, Testing Pods #3, Testing Pods #4
Lincoln – As part of Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) pandemic response, DHHS has worked with the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) and the Department of Economic Development (DED) to purchase five walk-up and five drive-through freestanding COVID-19 testing sites from Pacific Engineering, Inc. (PEI).
The pods, called Rapid On Demand-Portable Medical Platforms, will expand the state's ability to provide rapid testing just as the weather starts to get colder.
Slated to open on Saturday, the newest pod, a drive-through model, will be installed in North Omaha at Metropolitan Community College's Fort Omaha Campus, 5300 N. 30th (30th and Fort Streets), Building 10, Lot C (at the north end of campus.) It will have the capacity to test 320 people per day. The unit will operate weekly Tuesday-Sunday, 11:00 am-7:00 pm. The first pod, a walk-up model, was purchased by DHHS and delivered to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on October 15. Additional locations will be announced.
“We see this partnership with PEI as a way DHHS can continue to innovate and help keep Nebraskans safe," said Dannette R. Smith, chief executive officer for DHHS. “We knew that with winter approaching, tents would not be a practical way to safely administer tests. PEI's sandwich composites have low heat transfer and are more insulating than metal structures. The design is even analyzed for winds up to 120 miles per hour, and for heavy snow loads on the roof. PEI's innovative design will provide opportunities to be tested without risk – and, when we have a vaccine, to be able to administer the vaccine safely."
PEI, a military contractor, turned to building these units when the COVID-19 crisis hit earlier this year, noted Rear Admiral Osie V. Combs Jr., United States Navy (Ret.) and president of Pacific Engineering.
“The state of Nebraska had a vision of where they wanted to go, and we were in a position to help the state move forward with that vision," said Combs, noting that Nebraska is the first to install these innovative pods. “We asked ourselves what we could do to engage in combatting COVID-19. We knew we would need something to shelter health care workers. We knew it needed to be deployed rapidly, and that its weight would be important. Now, instead of protecting torpedoes, we're protecting health care workers. We're excited to be partnering with Governor Ricketts, CEO Smith, Dr. Anthone, and the state on this project."
The drive-through models have a heated, enclosed center unit. Cars will drive through a left lane and a right lane, also heated. Healthcare workers will administer the tests to passengers, who will remain in their cars for the test.
The walk-up pods will allow medical personnel to collect IDs and information for the database while the window is closed, minimizing the contact of staff with patients. Two patient specimens can be safely collected at each end, for a total of four specimens while using both ends of the unit. Swabs can easily be taken while the patient is seated or standing.
“The Rapid On Demand-Portable Medical Platforms will allow DHHS to rapidly test large crowds," said Angela Ling, incident commander for DHHS. “The pods are easily moved on-site as needed, are ruggedized for use in parking lots, readily deployable in all seasons and environments, and have HEPA filters with negative or positive air flow. Hard surfaces can easily be cleaned and rapidly disinfected. We're very happy to be working with Pacific Engineering on this important project."
Update Oct. 29: Appointments can be scheduled starting Thursday, Oct. 29. Go to Testnebraska.com or use TestNebraska/es for Spanish.