Testing the limits

Florida rises in the ranks for COVID-19 testing

COVID-19 testing laboratory in Leeds, England.

LAKE CITY, Fla.— Testing remains among many concerns for healthcare workers as the COVID-19 outbreak surges forward.

Currently, Duval county has multiple testing sites including the Prime Osborn Convention Center and parking lot J at the TIAA Bank Field.

“The COVID-19 has created a health and economic crisis in the United States,” wrote Cheryl Bergman, interim dean at the college of healthcare sciences, via an email interview. “The outlook changes on a daily basis with recommendations and mandates coming from state and local governments to remain home and practice safe social distancing.”

According to a USA Today article published on March 26, Naples, Florida experienced a shortage of testing kits, forcing them to close down a drive-through testing site. Other cities such as Winter Haven have experienced delays in getting test results lasting up to 10 days.

These cities are not alone, as testing kit shortages has become an issue nationally. This could lead some to believe that similar problems may arise in the Jacksonville area.

“[Testing kit shortages are] certainly a possibility,” wrote Bergman. “That is the reason testing needs to be used for those most likely to have the virus and/or have high risk of exposure. Not everyone should be tested with cough or fever, otherwise, the availability of testing kits will most certainly become a problem.”

While no shortages have been reported in the Jacksonville area, a News4Jax article published on March 28 reported that some tests results were taking longer than anticipated.

In response to the long wait for results, News4Jax reports that Gov. Ron DeSantis has been working on bringing rapid testing to every major hospital in the state. Rapid COVID-19 testing can bring negative test results within five minutes and positive results within 13 minutes, News4Jax reports.

The Florida Department of Health reported on April 4 that Florida is the second in the nation for COVID-19 testing.

Bergman says not every person needs to be tested, however.

“Individuals who are high risk [need to be tested],” wrote Bergman. “Difficulty breathing, cough and fever are the key indicators of a need to be tested. Exposure to others who have been diagnosed with having COVID-19. ”

If you do need to be tested, the city-run Prime Osborn Convention Center drive-through testing is available to Duval county residents, although a few steps need to be taken beforehand.

First, you must download the Telescope Health app or visit telescopehealth.org and register. After registration, use the promo code “HERE4YOU” for a discounted rate that can later be reimbursed by the City of Jacksonville. The patient will then be asked to complete an online physician screening to determine if you are eligible to be tested.

If it is found that you need testing, it will give you an order number as well as a date and time for you to visit the convention center.

“There is a helpline available for callers at 904-302-5050,” wrote Bergman. “If approved to be tested due to risk, there is drive through testing at several areas in Jacksonville. There is a delay in receiving results, 5-8 days. Those who test positive are the first to be notified and then those that are negative. During this wait, individuals should self-quarantine.”

Of course, regardless of whether you need testing or not, the main priority is controlled spread of the virus. Only by following CDC guidelines and practicing hygiene and taking necessary precautions can this be achieved.

“Clearly, the continued spread of the virus is a main concern,” wrote Bergman. “Most important is to practice safe, social distancing when interacting with others. Wash your hands and avoid touching your face. All of us need to do our part in helping to flatten the curve. Stay home and only go out when it is essential. If sick, stay home and quarantine yourself for at least 14 days. Call your health care provider before heading to the emergency department or doctor’s office.”

Although we are in unprecedented times, it is important to stay smart and stay safe.

“We are all in this together,” wrote Bergman. “It is important to not become paralyzed with fear. Practice common sense but remain vigilant and practice the guidelines. Wash your hands and commonly touched surfaces often. Stay informed.”