PEORIA — Central Illinois will soon have a less-invasive option for COVID-19 testing.


The new federally-funded testing site opening May 23 in the parking lot behind the Peoria Civic Center will be utilizing a type of test patients can administer themselves.


"We’re not using the nasopharyngeal, which pokes all the way up to your brain, practically," said Alicia Tate-Nadeau, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and director of the Illinois National Guard Joint Staff, the group running the site. "This is much less invasive. It is very similar to a cotton swab. You insert it halfway up into the nose, you take it five times around each nasal passage, and then you put it back into the package."


Tate-Nadeau spoke during the daily COVID-19 news briefing at the Peoria City/County Health Department on Thursday afternoon. With her was Brig. Gen. Mark Jackson, director of the Illinois National Guard Joint Staff. He offered a few more details about the new site.


"It is opening May 23, and the hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and we will be doing 250 tests a day. This is our 11th test site, the 10th in operation," he said.


The site will operate seven days a week until there is no longer a need.


Equipment and staff for the new site are actually coming from the underutilized testing site in McLean County, which opened in late March as the area’s first testing site. Bloomington will continue to have a testing site, however. It will be a mobile unit with a much smaller footprint, said Jackson.


Peoria’s new testing site will offer both drive-through and walk-up testing. Testing parameters dictated by the federal government are broad, including anyone who is symptomatic, has been around someone with COVID-19, is a first responder or a frontline worker of any kind, or has a health condition that makes them more likely to suffer the more severe symptoms of COVID-19.


Though broad, the testing parameters aren’t as open as those being used at Heartland Health Service’s four Peoria-area drive-through testing sites, where anyone can get tested. Tate-Nadeau said the federal site will have to stick with federal guidelines at least at first, though it eventually may be able to adopt guidelines dictated by the state of Illinois.


Testing at the new site is free, though insurance will be billed if the patient has it.


By 3 p.m. Thursday, the Heartland Health Services site on Wisconsin Avenue had only used 84 of its daily allotment of 150 tests. On some days, Heartland has two sites open, with a total of 300 available tests. With the addition of the 250 tests provided by the federal testing site, the Tri-County Area will be able to conduct a total of at least 400 tests a day, 550 on the days Heartland has two sites open.


Testing at both the federal site and Heartland Health sites is open to anyone who wants to travel to the Peoria area.


Only two more cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in the Tri-County Area in the last 24 hours, for a total of 252 cases. Peoria County has 169 cases, Tazewell County has 65, and Woodford County has 18. The usage of intensive care unit beds for COVID-19 hit an all-time low of five. Thirteen non-ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients.


Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or lrenken@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.