Local Clinic, Company Team up for COVID-19 Testing

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — They sat in their cars Sunday, parked outside Quick Med Urgent Care at 3499 Belmont Ave., waiting their turns to be evaluated and potentially tested for COVID-19.

“Those who present with symptoms remain in their cars and they are seen in their cars,” said Lena Esmail, a nurse practitioner and CEO of QuickMed Urgent Care, which began testing two weeks ago for the virus. “We also do telemedicine visits for patients and then they are able to come to the urgent care and get swabbed in their car.”

QuickMed, which also operates a clinic at 421 S. High St. in Cortland, has reported 20 positive cases to the Mahoning and Trumbull County health boards. “Based on trends, we anticipate see more positives this week because of the amount we’ve been testing over the weekend,” Esmail says.

The patients the clinic sees are experiencing “mild to moderate symptoms” of coronavirus, she says. “I think if they were very sick they would be going to the ER and be admitted to the hospital.”

QuickMed Urgent Care is the only clinic in the region able to process COVID-19 testing. The results are known in 24 to 48 hours. “We have a highly complexity molecular lab and we work with partners who also have high complexity molecular labs,” Esmail explains.

Clinic partners are Cornerstone CM Inc., a Poland-based distributor of upper respiratory testing processed through Ten Healthcare of St. Louis, Missouri. Cornerstone is owned by Michael Marantis, who grew up in Campbell and lives in Poland.

“Michael and I are both local in the community and we advocated to get the testing here,” Esmail says. “I was born at St. E’s, went to Liberty High School, and we opened urgent care in my hometown. I feel really good about being able to give back to the community on this level.”

Today their efforts shift to Campbell, where beginning at 9 a.m. first responders will arrive at the Roosevelt Park Community Center and be swabbed in their vehicles. Beginning tomorrow at 9 a.m., drive-thru testing opens to members of the public who have registered and been pre-screened through telemedicine employed at QuickMed.

“It’s a God-sent thing,” Marantis says of the free testing.

“I’m friends with Tim Ryan,” he begins. “Word got out that we were doing all this testing. I grew up in Campbell and the mayor reached out to the congressman, and asked if he could help Campbell residents get tested, and Tim connected the dots.”

In addition to the congressman, Marantis praises Campbell Mayor Nick Phillips and state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-53 Youngstown, for putting together the drive-thru testing that will continue through Thursday.

“We’re able to do thousands of tests but the key to this is we have a 24- to 48-hour turnaround time,” Marantis says. “And that’s important for identifying the patient who is positive, developing an isolation protocol and making sure that patient is compliant with that protocol then hopefully reducing spread of virus throughout the area as well as within their family.”

First responders were selected to be tested first, he continues. They are not required to be pre-screened, only that they have had direct contact with an individual who tested positive for the virus.

Members of the public must register at QuickMed-uc.com or by calling 724 734 5235.

“We’re not just going to have thousands and thousands of people show up at Roosevelt Park,” he says. But if they do, a significant law enforcement presence will steer them away and keep the peace.

The test swabs are shipped via FedEx and UPS — “We pay extra for priority overnight,” Marantis says – to the Ten Healthcare laboratory in St. Louis.

At the direction of President Donald Trump, the Food and Drug Administration implemented emergency use authorization guidelines for developers of COVID-19 diagnostic tests such as Ten Healthcare.

“Ten Healthcare was applying before President Trump blessed us all by decreasing the time to get validation,” Marantis says. “We got our answer in 48 hours.”

According to a statement released March 30 by FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, “Since the beginning of January, the FDA has worked with more than 230 test developers who have or are expected to submit requests for FDA emergency authorization of their tests; to date, 20 authorizations have been granted.”

As Marantis explains, the FDA sends a sample of the virus to test developers. “We [Ten Healthcare] already had an upper respiratory panel. So all we did to our upper respiratory panel was add COVID-19 to our testing.”

Swabs taken by QuickMed arrive at Ten Healthcare about 8:30 a.m., he continues. Using a molecular biology method known as polymerase chain reaction, the DNA samples are separated, extracted and tested, and the results are known within 24 to 48 hours.

Cornerstone CM, incorporated in 2001, distributes medical supplies in 14 states. In addition to QuickMed, the company is working with a few physicians’ offices in the Mahoning Valley, Marantis says.

“I’m talking to Mercy Health and Steward Health, and that’s all I’m allowed to say.”

Pictured at top: Lena Esmail, a nurse practitioner and CEO of QuickMed Urgent Care, and nurse practitioner Cindy Fink hold swabs used for the tests.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.