Access to COVID-19 testing in Hermiston for English, Spanish speaking patients

"Act as if you have COVID until we have a result," one Hermiston health official said.

With over 200 new COVID-19 cases reported just this week in Umatilla County, more community members could be searching to take a test.

On Saturday, Oregon State University will conduct random door-to-door testing by providing Hermiston residents at-home testing kits. It’s part of the OSU TRACE Project where volunteers and employees go throughout Oregon to test communities, find where the virus is and help local health districts combat the virus.

“We were asked by the Oregon Health Authority and the Umatilla County Health Department to come to Hermiston,” said Steve Clark the Oregon State University Relations and Marketing official, “We will help understand the prevalence of the virus that causes COVID-19 so to inform public health measures.”

The researchers will stay within city limits driving OSU marked vans to various neighborhoods. If households decide to participate, they will receive results within a week of testing. Spanish translators will assist researchers so they can serve both English and Spanish speaking homes. Although the researchers will only be in Hermiston and they will only be there for the weekend, anyone can get tested if they are filling sick at area clinics, including Marisol Family Health Clinic.

“The majority of our staff is bilingual so we’re able to communicate with our patients in their own language, which makes it sometimes a little easier for them to understand,” said Irma Solis, Clinic Manager at Marisol Family Health Clinic, “As we’re providing the education piece on isolation, staying home, not going to work ill, waiting for results, symptoms to watch for – I think it translates a little better when it is delivered in your own language or with the organization.”

Solis said in the month of July the clinic has tested 459 people.

The fully-staffed location provides a check-up and symptom survey for everyone who enters the clinic. From there, staff can help English or Spanish speaking patients on what treatment is best for them. Between each visitor, the staff sanitizes surfaces like they normally would but added additional cleaning due to the pandemic. Solis said throughout the pandemic they have ensured patients can still receive the care they need.

“We’ve made it easier for our patients to be able to still see their providers by adding video visits,” she said, “At some points, we had telephone visits as well, trying to make it to where our patients remain safe.”

Solis said she is proud to work for the organization because they prioritize care for anyone who needs it. If someone does not have a primary care provider, the clinic staff can assist the patient. Some staff members specialize in helping patients learn about insurance options and benefits as well.

When a patient comes in for a COVID-19 test, their work doesn’t stop after they receive a specimen sample.

“We educate our patients to please isolate and give them the precautions of essentially, act as if you have COVID until we have a result back at which point we’ll provide further instruction,” she said.

Umatilla County Public Health said in a statement this week that they continue to hear of community members returning to work when they are sick. The statement said it is imperative that people stay home if they fill sick for the safety of other workers and the entire community.