ST. JOSEPH — Three days after setting up a drive-up collection center, Spectrum Health Lakeland is still swabbing residents in an effort to identify those inflicted with the coronavirus.

Jessica Springer, a spokesperson for Spectrum Health Lakeland, reports that the site of the collection center – at the Center for Outpatient Services on 3900 Hollywood Road in St. Joseph Township – has not been overwhelmed with drive-up requests.

Springer said this is by design, as all patients require a physician’s order to be tested.

Individuals who are tested remain in their vehicle for the entire process at the front of the collection center.

Medical personnel wearing protective gear then swab the inside of the individual’s nose. They are also asked for their full name and date of birth to match up with the test.

Springer said the hospital will continue working with the Berrien County Health Department on this evolving situation, but could not confirm how many people have had drive-thru specimen collections.

“At this time (we are) only able to confirm if we were to get a positive case result,” Springer said.

Gillian Conrad, communications manager for the Health Department, said there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Berrien County as of Wednesday.

However, she said that will change as more people are tested.

“To date we still have no cases of COVID-19 in the county,” Conrad said. “We will start to see case numbers increase across the state and in our region. When it will change, I don’t have that exact answer. But people need to be aware of that. There will be more cases as testing increases.”

In order to be tested, Conrad reiterated that people need to call their doctor before going to the site to have a specimen collected.

Conrad said testing has been a problem throughout the country because until recently, testing was under the control of the federal government.

“We know there is a nationwide shortage of test kits available,” she said. “That is changing and we’re encouraged by the fact that more than facilities are now able to perform the COVID-19 tests.”

By the middle of next week, Spectrum Health Lakeland should be able to do its own testing. Until then, specimens will continue to be sent to the state health department.

“We know there are more kits in production and they are being shipped out across the country as we speak,” Conrad said. “In the coming days and weeks, it is going to be a bit slower to get the tests done and the results back. We are asking for patience and flexibility.

“We understand that when you are tested for something like COVID-19, you want the tests back immediately. We are doing everything we can to help make sure that happens.”

Contact: twittkowski@TheHP.com, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski