JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – This week’s strong storms have slowed down the testing for COVID-19 at Jacksonville’s Lot J site, causing delays for two days in a row.
The parking lot outside TIAA Bank Field has been running for several weeks as a COVID-19 testing site. But the drive-through testing site at Lot J couldn’t open until after 1 p.m. Tuesday and closed again around 3 p.m. due to heavy weather moving through.
Strong storms, with lightning, came through, delaying the 9 a.m. start by hours. The Florida National Guard, which is running the testing site with the help of the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, made the decision shortly before the scheduled opening time.
“Unfortunately, we are held to what Mother Nature provides us and that this morning and yesterday morning, unfortunately, was weather,” said Capt. Robert Borger, the officer in charge of the operation for the Florida Army National Guard. “We don’t want to keep anyone in an unsafe environment.”
This week, the Florida National Guard took over the Lot J site, which is now a state-run testing site instead of federal. That’s supposed to raise the maximum number of tests from 250 to 400 per day.
But rain delays have caused those numbers to be much lower. Monday, 133 tests were given out in between storms, according to a Guard spokeswoman. Tuesday, only 67 people were tested due to inclement weather.
“When we are open, we are going to get as many people as we can,” Borger said. “Obviously, for closed for a portion, it’s going to limit the amount of people we can get in for the day.”
Many of the soldiers here are trained medical professionals: paramedics, doctors and nurses. About 60 are on duty at Lot J per day. They can help lower the numbers of police and firefighters needed for this essential service.