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Shipping containers in Ohio become mobile COVID test, vaccine labs

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Posted at 3:07 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 15:07:49-05

CLEVELAND — We’ve all seen shipping containers on the highway moving materials from one part of the United States to another.

Now, Container Homes USA is converting those containers into mobile medical units that can be used to deliver COVID tests and vaccines to communities that need them.

Inside, the containers are exactly as you’d expect a doctor’s exam room to look with cabinets for supplies, room for an exam table, and a bathroom in the back of the space.

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Inside the mobile medical unit, there is room for an exam table for an examination. Other, larger containers will be able to have patients come through for COVID tests and vaccines.

When the coronavirus began, Derrick C.W. Childs says he started thinking through how container homes could solve some of the problems COVID created, filling up hospitals and making social-distancing necessary.

His most recent product, 20 and 40-foot long mobile medical labs, allows medical professionals to treat patients, while they, “never have to hit a hospital,” said Childs.

Dr. Savanna Berkley Wells from Emergency Medical Plus reached out a few months later with an idea.

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Derrick speaks with News 5 Cleveland about his work creating mobile COVID testing labs.

“The brick and mortar labs are overrun, tests are not coming back fast enough, the results are not fast enough, we have to do something else,” said Dr. Wells.

Emergency Medical Plus partnered with Vela Diagnostics, which developed a COVID test and got FDA Emergency Use Authorization in September.

The trick for Dr. Wells and Childs was getting the test and eventual vaccines to people who need it. The shipping containers can be sent all over the nation and set up with a heavy gauge extension cord in hospital parking lots, community centers, or in rural areas where medical facilities are not convenient.

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Containers will be able to sit outside existing medical facilities or go to places where doctors are hard to get to.

“We can get a unit in the field in less than 21 days, fully equipped with the proper diagnostic equipment on board,” said Dr. Wells.

Vela Diagnostics tells News 5 it, “has the desire to deploy up to 25 units in the next month,” and that, “these mobile units can be scaled to capacities from 2,500 to 10,000 or more tests per day depending upon the geographic need demands of the section of the country being addressed,” through an emailed statement.

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Ramps make the shipping container medical labs accessible to people who use wheelchairs.

That’s especially important in communities of color, which the CDC says are more likely to see COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths compared to white communities.

“The African American community is being affected by such a drastic amount that we had to come forward with something to try to head it off,” said Childs.

This story was first reported by Kevin Barry at WEWS in Cleveland, Ohio.

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering