ROCHESTER, Minn. — In the wake of the announcement of a confirmed coronavirus case in Rochester, Mayo Clinic started collecting patient samples for COVID-19 testing Wednesday, March 11, at "a drive-thru" site in northwest Rochester.

Tents and heating lamps were set up this afternoon outside Mayo Family Clinic Northwest.

Vehicles were being ushered into the tents by Mayo Clinic security officers, and medical personnel wearing protective gear would go out to the vehicles. Specimens will be sent to the Minnesota Department of Health for analysis.

Mayo Clinic is requiring telephone screening for patients before they are referred to the drive-thru site.

"Patients will need to have a phone screening first to determine if testing is appropriate. Then, patients will be directed to the drive-thru location if it is appropriate for them to have testing," wrote Mayo spokesperson Ginger Plumbo. "We are not charging anything extra for the drive-thru."

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Plumbo explained that Mayo Clinic is following the lead of other health care organizations with this process.

"Transmission of the virus is increasing nationwide, and other institutions have successfully used the drive-thru approach. Patients who meet the criteria for testing are directed to the location," she wrote. "The drive-thru approach reduces the need for other critically constrained resources."

This drive-thru process originated in South Korea, where health officials have been testing hundreds of people for virus.

As the virus has blossomed in the U.S., clinics in Colorado, Connecticut and Washington started using the same procedure.

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