Stuttgart Army clinic’s new coronavirus testing

Spc. Phillip Corona conducts COVID-19 testing at Stuttgart Army Health Clinic.

By Rebecca Castellano, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart

STUTTGART, Germany – U.S. Army Health Clinic Stuttgart recently added a new weapon to its arsenal in the fight against the COVID-19 virus.

The new system is a rapid testing platform intended for the detection of COVID-19 in nasopharyngeal swab specimens collected from individuals suspected of COVID-19 by their healthcare provider. COVID-19 is generally detectable in nasopharyngeal swab specimens during the initial phase of infection. Positive results indicate an active infection with COVID-19.

“We now have two (systems) and we can run tests internally,” said Lt. Col. Maria Bruton, commander of USAHC Stuttgart. “We’re really excited about this because if patients come through the line and we are concerned that they do have symptoms for COVID-19, we can test them and within a day we should be able to get back to them and let them know whether they are positive or negative.”

Prior to receiving the new system, a runner was used to drive test kits from U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, near Kaiserslautern, Germany. Any suspected COVID-19 carriers would be required to self-quarantine while awaiting results.

“The process before would take about 24-48 hours to get a result back to the patient,” Bruton said. “With testing capabilities in-house, we should be able to run those results within an 8-hour period and contact them.”

The improved process is something Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Sleeper can appreciate. He was tested for COVID-19 on a Wednesday and told to self-isolate in his barracks room until he received the results.

“It was difficult depending on others to bring me food and supplies and all the while wondering if I had the virus,” said Sleeper, who received a negative test result four days later. “This new system is awesome because it will get people back to work and out of isolation so much sooner.”

Bruton said those with COVID-19 symptoms and anyone in need of emergency dental treatment will be given priority for in-house testing. All asymptomatic patient tests will be sent to partner centers for processing. Anyone who believes they have been in contact with COVID-19 should visit the drive-through testing center at USAHC Stuttgart at Patch Barracks, Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Clinic operating under a new normal

On June 8, the Health Clinic began transitioning back to some of its normal services but with new procedures in place that minimize the number of patients inside the clinic at any one time. One such change is the new curbside pharmacy refill service offered during normal duty hours.

Patients who called in their refill 24 hours prior, can get in the drive-through line, have their prescription verified and delivered to their car by a pharmacy technician and be on their way.

“It’s just one of many ways we can limit the number of people waiting in small spaces for medical care,” said Bruton, who encourages everyone to keep vigilant in the fight against COVID-19.

“I am extremely proud of this community,” she said. “The garrison team was able to put our swift, accurate and prudent guidance to safeguard our health and because this community took it seriously, we were able to reduce the rate of transmission. Now we just have to continue to adhere to their guidance.”

Anyone who believes they’ve been in contact with COVID-19 should visit the drive-through testing center at the USAHC Stuttgart at Patch Barracks, Monday through Friday, between 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.