They may not go the way of video stores, but the nearly two-year-long push to open COVID-19 testing sites is now heading in the opposite direction.
A clinic planned for Davis Street downtown was approved by the City in February, but never saw a single patient.
The facility was going to take over the vacant American Mattress store at 618 Davis, and was expected to be up and running by now.
But Zoning Administrator Melissa Klotz tells Evanston Now, “It looks like the applicant did not proceed to obtain a business registration from the city, and it never opened.”
“I’m not sure why,” Klotz added.
Evanston Now tried contacting the applicant, Amer Hussain, from Chicago, but did not receive a response to either an email or a phone call.
It’s certainly possible that the declining number of COVID cases turns a test site into less than an optimal business model.
Effective on Thursday, the State of Illinois is closing its 10 community-based testing facilities around the state, the Department of Public Health saying this is “due to the sharp drop in demand for COVID-19 testing.”
The two state sites closest to Evanston are in Harwood Heights and Arlington Heights.
Ease of getting free, at-home test kits is likely another reason for the decline in COVID test facilities. The federal government offers those kits via an online signup form.
But one more reason, which has not gotten much publicity, may be another key factor why private, pop-up clinics don’t have the pop they used to.
Federal funding to reimburse clinics that test the uninsured has run out, as Congress has so far refused to add money requested by the Biden Administration.
A notice on the Health Resource and Services Administration’s website says that as of March 22, “The Uninsured Program has stopped accepting claims for testing and treatment due to a lack of sufficient funds.”
Despite that, however, Takala Fomond, a nurse and Evanston native, just opened TBF Diagnostics, at 2916 Central St.
Fomond, with nearly two decades of experience in health care, had been providing mobile COVID tests, at nursing homes, community events and other similar locations.
But having a brick-and-mortar facility that provides a variety of tests, not just COVID, was her goal.
And with demand for COVID tests diminishing, Fomond offers blood tests for things such as cholesterol level, kidney function, and 30 other options.
Fomond says her per-test fees are low.
“I’m not in it for the money,” she says. “I want people to know their numbers.”
Fomond’s grand opening was on March 19, her late grandmother’s birthday. Fomond says grandma was her “100% inspiration” for doing what she does.
Ike Ogbo, the City’s Director of Health and Human Services, says Evanston had been inundated with pop-up clinic applications during the height of the pandemic, but approved fewer than 10.
Another was actually shut down by the City in January for not getting the necessary OK to start up in the first place.
Since then, with virus cases, hospital admissions and positivity rates declining, the City has only approved two new locations, one of which was TBF, and the other apparently was the Davis Street site that never opened.
There are, of course, several hospital-affiliated urgent care facilities, pharmacies and independent centers in Evanston where COVID tests are still available.
And with the up-and-down nature of COVID-19, there’s always the chance that case numbers will increase and so will the demand for places to get checked.
Right now, the nation is seeing a jump in a COVID variant called BA.2. BA does not stand for “Back Again,” but you never know.