Next week, Lawrence residents will be able to get a COVID test — even if they don’t have symptoms

A Johnson County nonprofit is expanding its program to test asymptomatic people for the COVID-19 virus in Lawrence next week.

Lenexa-based Heart to Heart International will operate free testing sites for basically anyone in the community, Mark Gleeson, a Lawrence resident who works for the nonprofit told me.

It basically is the first real opportunity for large numbers of Douglas County residents to get a test. Unlike in other counties, there haven’t been mass testing sites, and you generally have had to show some symptoms before getting tested.

That won’t be the case at the Heart to Heart event. Gleeson said people who do have symptoms should stay away and get tested through their doctors. Others, though, should come to the site and try to ease any nagging worries that they maybe have the disease but haven’t had the symptoms.

“Knowledge is power, and information is good to have,” Gleeson said of the testing program’s aim.

The testing sites are scheduled to be open:

• 9 a.m. to noon July 8 at the Union Pacific Depot, also known as the former Lawrence Visitors Center, 402 N. Second St.

• 9 a.m. to noon July 9 at Theatre Lawrence, 4660 Bauer Farm Drive.

• 9 a.m. to noon July 10 at Billy Mills Middle School, 2734 Louisiana St.

All the locations will operate as drive-up testing sites. People will be allowed to stay in their vehicles, roll down the window and stick their nose out the window to receive the test, which will involve a swab deep into the nasal cavity. (This is not the antibody test.)

“My advice on the testing is open your mouth wide and breath through your mouth during the test. Life goes easier that way,” said Gleeson, who has been traveling to testing sites throughout the Kansas City metro area as part of his job.

Heart to Heart has done 15 or 16 testing sites in the K.C. area, Gleeson said. On Wednesday he was at a testing site at Tippin’s Pie in the metro area.

“Oh look, somebody just delivered me a pie,” Gleeson said at one point while on a phone interview with me.

I don’t know if Gleeson will be getting pies at the Lawrence events, but I’m guessing people will be glad to see him. I know I’ve certainly been getting questions from community members about why they can’t be more easily tested.

Gleeson said he understood. He appreciates being able to get a test before he goes to visit family members, for instance. Gleeson, who manages transportation issues for the nonprofit, pushed to get Lawrence chosen as a testing site outside the Kansas City area.

“Lawrence is a community that obviously has a lot of essential workers,” Gleeson said. “It just made sense to expand out beyond Kansas City, and I live in Lawrence, so I wanted to bring it to my hometown.”

The testing program emphasizes testing essential workers, but Gleeson said that phrase is defined very broadly, and no one is going to deny a person a test for not having the right type of job.

Heart to Heart is asking people who want to be tested to pre-register. The events should be able to accommodate people who don’t pre-register, but Gleeson said the process moves more quickly if people have registered in advance. You can register by going to the nonprofit’s website at hearttoheart.org/covid19testing. Click the “register here” button on the page.

Gleeson said at most of the testing sites, wait times have been less than five minutes to get the test. The test itself only takes about 30 seconds. How long waits will be in Lawrence, though, is unknown.

“We may have a lot of people,” Gleeson said. “I hope we have so many we have to come back more days.”

People should receive their test results in 48 to 72 hours, Gleeson said.

Heart to Heart, which more traditionally provides disaster relief assistance across the world at hurricane and earthquake sites, is doing the COVID-19 testing program as part of a grant program in partnership with Dr. Kevin Sykes at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

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