CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The Medical University of South Carolina says it has opened a drive-thru collection site as an extension of its virtual care platform for the coronavirus.

MUSC on Thursday said patients who need specimen collection for possible respiratory illness, or COVID-19-like symptom testing, will now have access to a drive-thru MUSC Health respiratory specimen collection site.

The collection site is in the parking lot of its Citadel Mall campus – the MUSC Health West Ashley Medical Pavilion.

Officials say signage will direct patients with testing orders and scheduled appointments to the entrance of the secure site in the parking lot.

Providers within the site, wearing the appropriate CDC-recommended personal protective equipment, will quickly collect specimens from only those patients who have screened into the system as “high risk” for respiratory illness, including possible exposure to COVID-19.

“A major concern for health care providers remains exposing vulnerable or noninfected patients to those patients who do have the virus and arrive to seek care in clinics, waiting rooms, hospitals and other such areas,” said Heather Woolwine, director of MUSC Public Affairs, Media Relations and Presidential Communications.

Woolwine says most patients will experience mild to moderate illness while treating viral symptoms and recover within a week from the onset of symptoms.

She said these patients can be triaged through MUSC’s online platform, receive lab orders and scheduled appointments to report to the site and complete specimen collection without having to leave their vehicles and possibly exposing others to the virus.

MUSC launched its free virtual urgent care on March 7th. Learn how it works by clicking or tapping here and use the code COVID19 for free treatment.

There are no age restrictions on who can be screened, meaning both adult and pediatric patients can be screened through the online platform.

“Although online screening is free, it is important to note that specimen collection available at the drive-through site and subsequent laboratory processing will be billed to patients’ insurance providers or considered self-pay,” said Woolwine.

MUSC reminds patients that the drive-thru service is not a self-select drive-through or walk-up service for anyone in the community who has a health concern; individuals who report to the site for specimen collection, but do not have a testing order and scheduled appointment through the MUSC Health Virtual Urgent Care platform, will not be allowed to enter the secure site.