Tiny Texas company is running most of the drive-thru coronavirus testing in US

After the U.S. reportedly spent nearly $230 million for COVID-19 test sites around the country, one small Texas company established hundreds of testing stations, while bringing in more than $90 million in federal contracts.

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That company, eTrueNorth, doesn’t run sites or employ site staffers. Instead, it helps manage a patchwork of clinical laboratories, pharmacy staff and technical infrastructure, STAT News reported.

It helps oversee certain operations at more than 350 testing sites and pays for the tests, according to a federal contracts database.

“We couldn’t have pulled it off without a partnership with eTrueNorth. They were answering their phones Sunday night at seven o’clock,” said Nancy Lyons, chief pharmacist for McKesson’s Health Mart, which hosted some eTrueNorth-run sites.

She added, "It’s been “a really great partnership … with them — even in the midst of things that didn’t always go perfectly the first time.”

eTrueNorth’s contribution to the U.S. testing effort has been relatively small. Its labs have run far fewer tests than larger companies like Quest and Labcorp.

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“I think that these [drive-thru] testing sites are actually a net good, in general. What I don’t know, though, is … was the bang worth the buck?” said interim chair of laboratory medicine at the University of Washington Geoffrey Baird, who has not worked with eTrueNorth directly. “That’s something that six months from now, we need to look back and say, ‘Well, in the places where these things were implemented, were there slower spreads?’”

In the autumn of 2016, Walmart became one of the company’s clients, as their pharamcies began offering clincial tests such as basic flu screens. STAT News said eTrueNorth also handled Walmart’s employee wellness days and screenings.

The employee wellness programs were the core of eTrueNorth’s business before the pandemic began.

After its past experience with eTrueNorth, Walmart enlisted its help -- along with Quest -- to develop a coronavirus strategy.

The company also was praised for having a faster turnaround and smaller delays in delivering results than some of the bigger players.

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CEO of eTrueNorth Coral May, said she believes the company has lived up to its promise to make testing more accessible all around the country.

“I think we have done a great job at making testing available. Is there work to be done? Sure. I think there’s always work to be done,” she said. “There is testing available. And there are also supply chain constraints.”