Drive-thru coronavirus testing arrives in Jacksonville

Ascension St. Vincent’s site opens Tuesday; city site at TIAA Bank Field to open later in week

Tuesday, Mayor Lenny Curry told us the city and federal governments will soon open testing sites. News4Jax anchor Tarik Minor walks us through the process-- and the new criteria.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The first drive-thru coronavirus testing site opened Tuesday morning in Jacksonville. Plans are in place for several more to be up and running in response to the demand for testing. At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has broadened its testing criteria, making it possible for more people to get tested.

Ascension St. Vincent’s began offering drive-thru coronavirus testing at 8 a.m. Tuesday for people who think they might have been exposed.

The hospital said 57 patients were tested Tuesday. Ascension St. Vincent’s said testing kits are still available and it will continue to monitor supplies. While hours may vary, testing is currently planned for Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to noon.

Patients MUST be screened first before going through the drive-through testing. They will be given the location once they meet the criteria.

At the Ascension St. Vincent’s drive-thru coronavirus testing site, patients arrive in their cars and are told to roll their windows down. They’re greeted by nurses wearing protective gear, like masks, and then they are directed to a tent for testing.

One patient told News4Jax the testing took less than four minutes -- just a swab down the nose.

She said she was told the results would take three to seven days.

There is also an Ascension Coronavirus Hotline set up for those who have questions about COVID-19, are experiencing symptoms or those who want to receive a text message to schedule an Ascension Online Care appointment with a provider. The number is 833-981-0712.

Mayo Clinic said it also anticipates having a drive-through testing option.

Mayor Lenny Curry announced Monday that drive-thru coronavirus testing will also be set up at TIAA Bank Field, hopefully by the end of the week.

To get tested, the first step is to contact your primary care physician or the county health department.

It was required that you meet certain criteria before your doctor could order a coronavirus test, but the Florida Department of Health will now allow physicians to use their own discretion about whether a patient should be tested.

Samples collected from patients who fall within the state’s six criteria -- contact with someone who has COVID-19; history of international or cruise travel; history of visits to domestic locations with community spread of the virus; hospitalization with acute lower respiratory illness of unknown origin; 65 years and older with chronic health problems; and being immunocompromized -- can also be sent to one of the state’s three public health laboratories.

Mayor Curry announced drive-thru Coronavirus testing will be available here in Jacksonville by the end of the week for people who think they may have been exposed. Tarik Minor takes a look at what this could look like, and also steps you can take to get tested elsewhere.

Here’s how drive-thru testing would work:

  • People are asked to stay in their cars
  • They drive to a tent, lower their windows
  • Medical workers then take swabs and send them to a lab

It’s still unclear how long it would take health officials in Jacksonville to get those test results, but in other states, like California, those results are back within 24 hours.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced drive-thru testing in Broward County, which began Monday. A second drive-thru test site was recently set up in a West Palm Beach Parking lot.

The federal government is overseeing the tests to help identify the people who may be ill with the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The National Guard is responsible for overseeing the testing of hundreds of people in New Rochelle, New York, who think they were exposed to the coronavirus. The test site there can handle six lanes of traffic and up to 200 cars a day. The testing is done by appointment only through a doctor’s referral.

The federal government’s effort to rapidly expand testing for the coronavirus will initially focus on screening health care workers and the elderly, Trump administration officials said Sunday.

About the Authors:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013 and reports every weekday for The Morning Show.