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story.lead_photo.caption Sgt. Cameron Lincks administers a COVID-19 test on an individual as they remain seated in their vehicle. Lincks is with the 138th Infantry in Kansas City and is one of the two dozen or so members of the Missouri National Guard who are in Jefferson City to perform 1,500 COVID tests over a three-day period. The tests are free of charge, but registration is required. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

The first day of community COVID-19 testing in Cole County went smoothly, according to Missouri National Guard officials.

National Guard personnel will continue to operate the testing site from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. today and Thursday at the old Cole County Health Department building, 1616 Industrial Drive.

"It's exactly like what is being done at local hospitals with the nasal swab tests administered to people in their vehicles," said Capt. Andrew Rodenberg, commander of the unit known as Task Force Pony Express, which is made up of personnel from National Guard Units across the state. "The only difference here is you don't have to have a doctor's order to get tested."

Nearly 1,050 people had signed up to be tested during the three-day event as of Tuesday, Rodenberg said.

Testing at the community event is free to any Missouri resident of any county — not just the county where the event takes place — and people do not need to have symptoms of COVID-19 to take part.

Around 580 people were scheduled to be tested at the Cole County site on Tuesday alone, Rodenberg said.

"We tell people that it usually is one to seven days for the test results to come back," Rodenberg said. "We've been seeing 48- to 72-hour turnarounds in many cases."

While it's not mandatory to wear a mask when a person goes to the testing site, they ask people to wear masks for the safety of the National Guard personnel, he said.

To register for the community COVID-19 testing event, visit health.mo.gov/communitytest or call the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services COVID-19 Hotline at 877-435-8411.

On-site registration will be offered today and Thursday, Rodenberg said.

Rodenberg's unit has operated 15 testing events across the state.

"We've done big counties and small counties," Rosenberg said. "The turnout depends on a few different things such as if people feel they have a need for it and if the health department has done the leg work to get the word out that the testing is available."

"We have the air on inside the building so they can cool off," Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell said. "That's very important for those who will be in the full protective suits administering the tests who have to stand out in the heat. There's even a separate room we've set up to where they can cool off without taking off their suits."

With five medics on the team, they can switch off to give each other breaks, Rodenberg said.

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