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UF Health offers free COVID-19 testing to underserved residents

Medical professionals to also test public housing residents with symptoms

JACKSONVILLE Fla. – UF Health and state officials continued coronavirus testing on Friday targeting those most at-risk in Jacksonville: seniors, especially those who already have health challenges and few resources.

Walk-up testing is taking place at Emmett Reed Community Center, focusing on helping residents of The Oaks at Durkeeville.

Before the site opened Friday morning , people were already waiting in line at 8 a.m. to get tested. Around 10 a.m., there were already 100 people in line, but UF Health said they’re only doing 150 tests a day.

“When you look at the line and the few cars out here, most of the population that have been coming out in the line have basically been from the neighborhoods, so the ability to walk to testing is increasing access to care and health care resources," said Ann-Marie Knight, vice president of community engagement and chief diversity officer at UF Health.

That high demand was the reason behind adding additional testing hours Friday from 9 a.m. to Noon and again from 1-5 p.m.

Because of the high demand and a limit of 150 tests per day, UF Health officials are urging patients to make appointments before getting tested. To make an appointment call 904-244-4420.

“It is absolutely better to get an appointment," Knight said. "We have patients mixed in with appointments and non-appointments (in the line), so we’re calling on our patients with appointments, and then courtesy to age, we’re pulling in our seniors who are over 65, and getting them the test next, and then proceeding from there. But an appointment is the idea.”

While those with symptoms and even those without are being tested, testing of asymptomatic people is part of research to help doctors better understand the virus. One of the goals is to identify who has the virus but isn’t showing any signs and is therefore not counted in health statistics.

Once patients arrive at the site, they are asked a series of questions and, if deemed appropriate, they are tested.

“I think it’s important to get tested so that if you have it you can get cured and won’t be spreading the virus around,” resident Patricia Martin said.

UF Health said it is important to remember these things before coming to get tested:

  • 65 and older people are encouraged but other ages are accepted.
  • No appointment is necessary but appointments are encouraged.
  • If you have a UF health physician you can make an appointment through them for this testing site.
  • You will get results in 72 business hours.

Initial efforts Wednesday involved a team of 40 to 50 volunteer UF Health medical professionals and medical students who will evaluate up to about 2,000 people over the next few weeks.

Debra Townsend-Reed told News4Jax she looks forward to being tested, as she hopes it will ease some of her anxiety.

“I had an appointment at the doctor, and I’m looking around, I don’t see so many people with their masks on with their gloves on. I’m scared to sit down. I don’t know what to do,” said Townsend-Reed, who had a mask on and was wearing gloves. “The reason it scares me is because I can’t interact with my grandkids anymore. Friends will come over and sit in the yard -- they can no longer sit in the yard. I cannot go church."

Walk-up or drive-thru screening for residents of The Oaks at Durkeeville and the surrounding area will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at Emmett Reed Community Center.
Walk-up or drive-thru screening for residents of The Oaks at Durkeeville and the surrounding area will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at Emmett Reed Community Center. (WJXT)

“I think it’s a great idea because, you know, a lot of people don’t have transportation and that would be closer from here," said Arthur Bright, who lives in The Oaks at Durkeeville. "I think its a great idea.”

Testing will continue Wednesday through Friday the week of April 13, rotating through the following communities: Brentwood, 761 Village Center Dr.; Hogan Creek, 1320 N. Broad St.; Twin Towers, 617-621 W. 44th St.; and Centennial Towers, 230 E. First St.

Testing next week in the Brentwood neighborhood will be from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., or as long as tests are available. That site will be walk-up only as well, and UF Health said parking will be tight in that area so plan accordingly.

Dates and locations are subject to change based on weather and availability of testing materials. Residents can call 904-244-4420 to confirm details.

Testing will continue Wednesday through Friday the week of April 13, rotating through the following communities: Brentwood, 761 Village Center Dr.; Hogan Creek, 1320 N. Broad St.; Twin Towers, 617-621 W. 44th St.; and Centennial Towers, 230 E. First St.
Testing will continue Wednesday through Friday the week of April 13, rotating through the following communities: Brentwood, 761 Village Center Dr.; Hogan Creek, 1320 N. Broad St.; Twin Towers, 617-621 W. 44th St.; and Centennial Towers, 230 E. First St. (WJXT)

Criteria for clinical testing generally include having a fever, cough, shortness of breath and close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

“The heart and soul of an academic health center like UF Health is a commitment to educate and serve under-resourced members of the community, especially in times of crisis,” said Leon J. Haley, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville.


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