JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dozens of cars with people inside wearing masks and gloves were lined up as the city of Jacksonville opened its first mobile testing site for COVID-19 at 11 a.m. Friday.
Mayor Lenny Curry said the city worked with Baptist Health and Telescope Health on the drive-thru testing site in the parking lot of the Prime Osborn Convention Center in LaVilla, giving residents a way to find out whether they have coronavirus once and for all.
Before entering the test site, the driver must show a physician’s order and have an appointment.
“With the increase in testing, we fully expect the number of positive COVID-19 cases to increase,” Curry said, noting that more testing opportunities will provide officials better access to more accurate information on the spread of the contagious disease in Jacksonville.
The mobile testing site opened at 11 a.m. Friday. It will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week while testing supplies last.
It’s separate from a testing site run by Ascension St. Vincent’s that opened Tuesday and tested 336 people within three days and another being opened by the federal government on Saturday outside TIAA Bank Field.
Curry said the testing site is only be available to city residents who have an appointment to be there. As part of that process, they will be required to undergo screening and obtain a doctor’s referral from Telescope Health before they drive to the convention center.
“What will happen is, they will have one swab and we will ask them to open their mouth. The swab will be put back by their tonsils. They will go from left to right -- five seconds swapping the back of the throat -- and then we will put it in the specimen," RN Tammy Daniel of Baptist Medical Center said.
While patients do not need health insurance to get tested, there is a fee associated with the process. It will cost people $25 if they use a promotional code with Telescope Health, or $49 without the code.
Asked about residents who don’t have access to the internet or their own transportation, Curry hinted that there could be additional testing sites rolled out at some point down the road.
“If you don’t have access to technology, you can show up to Lot J (on Saturday) for testing,” the mayor said.
To find out whether you’re eligible for testing, follow the steps outlined below:
- Once you’ve completed the registration form, you’ll be prompted for payment. Enter the promotional code (HERE4YOU) to pay $25 for the visit. Otherwise, it will cost $49.
- Then set up your appointment with a doctor between the hours of 6 a.m. and midnight any day of the week using any device equipped with a camera and microphone.
Some people noted issues with the app during the first day of testing. News4Jax received a statement from Telescope Health that reads in part:
“The national demand increases for Internet usage has strained the app and website. Telescope Health is not the only telemedicine provider experiencing these difficulties. The Telescope team is working with its platform partner to expand bandwidth of the app and portal services over the next few days, and in the meantime, the testing center at Prime Osborn will continue to operate with the City’s support. Overnight, the service provider will put the platform on a much more powerful server.”
It’s up to the physician to determine whether patients meet the criteria for testing. The criteria include: a fever of 100.4° F or higher combined with a cough and shortness of breath, or travel on a cruise ship within the past 14 days or travel to a known hot spot with the same symptoms.
Those who qualify for an appointment will receive an order for testing at the drive-thru testing site along with a specific date and time to show up. It’s required that patients bring that order with them, either on their phone or printed out and placed on their dashboard, when they show up for testing.
It’s worth noting that the city will prioritize high-risk patients, including those who are 65 years old and above, those with underlying health conditions, health care workers and first responders.
Below are some key things to remember on the day of your appointment:
- Don’t forget to bring both your driver’s license and a copy of your Telescope Health physician’s order.
- Stay in your car and keep your windows rolled up. Then follow staff instructions and the posted signs.
- You’ll receive a throat swab from a staff member (similar to the swab you would get to test for strep throat). Once collected, the sample will be sent off for testing.
- Results should take 3-5 days, and you will receive a phone call no matter if you test positive or negative.
- After your test, you’ll be asked to self-quarantine until you receive your test results.
“They will come with their order and pull up to the entry here. We will let them in once we prove there’s an order. They’ll pull up to the front and we’ll have people dressed in protective equipment who will swab them orally with one swab," said Tammy Daniel, a registered nurse.