Mayo expanding drive-thru testing

Published 3:01 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Those who suspect they have COVID-19 must first call before they will be tested

As more people are diagnosed with COVID-19, the coronavirus that is sweeping across the globe, Mayo Clinic has stepped up its detection efforts once again.

Mayo has expanded its drive-thru testing to all of its satellite sites in southeast Minnesota including Austin, Albert Lea, Mankato and Red Wing.

However, those who think they have the coronavirus are instructed to call first and set up an appointment before they will be allowed to go through the testing. If a provider or nurse has determined that a patient meets the criteria, they will schedule the person for a drive-thru test.

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Tests will not be offered to people who have not been pre-screened over the phone.

Mayo Clinic Health Systems Austin nurses show off how samples will be packaged after collection at the newly set-up drive-thru testing clinic in Austin. Eric Johnson/

“Call first is the best way to get through the process,” said Dr. Robert Bonacci, MD. “Or join our Patient Portal.”

The expansion of this kind of testing to other Mayo sites in southeast Minnesota has been in response to the continued growth of the virus. The drive-thru option was first unveiled in Rochester last week.

“It was inevitable watching how things were materializing in other states,” Bonacci said. “Prior to Mayo everything was sent to the Minnesota Department of Health for testing. Here collections are sent to Rochester and tested.”

Any confirmed cases are still sent to MDH once they are determined.

Bonacci said people who utilize the testing can expect results anywhere between 48 and 72 hours.

Overall, around five hospital staff will be at the drive-thru that will include an on-site provider, staff inside to process the tests and nurses outside to take samples.

Latest numbers in Minnesota show that there are 60 confirmed cases in a trend that shows a spike of cases daily since Friday, when there were only 14 cases state wide.

A medical staff member from Mayo Clinic Health Systems in Austin works at a terminal inside the drive-thru clinic Tuesday morning. Eric Johnson/

According to a Minnesota Public Radio report, more than 2,300 people have been tested state wide.

The Austin site has been up and running since Monday and continues a trend by the hospital of being able to significantly increase the amount of people being tested each day, hopefully putting health officials one step closer to being on top of the situation, though even that seems like a tall task at this point.

In an indication of how quickly this testing process has developed, the hospital announced just last Thursday that it had developed a new test to detect COVID-19. That same day, Mayo in Rochester opened it’s drive-thru testing clinic.

However, before people can make use of the system, they must first be symptomatic before calling the hospital at its appointment line, 1-507-433-8758.

The hospital also wants the public to know that it doesn’t matter if you are a Mayo patient or not.

“If a patient is not a Mayo patient we will work with them to get them into the system.,” Bonacci said.

Patients experiencing symptoms should take the following steps:

What to do

• First, call their primary care clinic/provider for a phone screening.

• If they meet the criteria for testing, patients will be directed to the nearest drive-thru testing location.

• At the drive-thru location, Mayo Clinic Health System staff will collect the specimens using appropriate precautions.

• The specimens will then be sent to Mayo Clinic in Rochester for analysis.

• Patients will be advised of next steps.

Mayo Clinic Health System patients who are scheduled for an appointment, hospital procedure or surgery can be assured our facilities are safe. We continue to coordinate with local and regional partners to take the necessary precautions for the safety of patients, staff and our communities. For the latest on getting care locally during the COVID-19 outbreak, visit