Weather puts damper on Lot J, Prime Osborn testing sites

A Florida National Guard soldier works alongside a local nurse to learn the processes at Jacksonville’s COVID-19 community-based testing site at TIAA Bank Field.
A Florida National Guard soldier works alongside a local nurse to learn the processes at Jacksonville’s COVID-19 community-based testing site at TIAA Bank Field. (Photo by Sgt. Michael Baltz, Florida National Guard Public Affairs Detachment)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – This week’s strong storms continued again Wednesday morning, forcing testing at Lot J and the Prime Osborn Convention Center to be halted for the third day in a row.

Lot J outside TIAA Bank Field, which has been running for several weeks as a COVID-19 testing site, reopened at 9 a.m. Wednesday but had to close less than two hours later.

At 1 p.m., the Florida National Guard, which is running the site now, made the decision to stop testing for the day at Lot J.

Testing at the Prime Osborn site was also suspended Wednesday morning, and patients were not allowed on site while it’s halted out of concern for the “safety and care of medical staff and resources,” Telescope Health announced on Twitter. The Prime Osborn site reopened later in the afternoon, taking patients through 7 p.m.

Those scheduled for testing but missed their appointment due to rain at the Prime Osborn site will be seen on Thursday at the same appointment time as Wednesday, the health care provider said.

Strong storms that left a trail of damage and included at least one waterspout caught on camera forced the interruption of testing for yet another day this week.

The Lot J site is now run by the state instead of the federal government, which is 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, and another 70 were tested Wednesday morning.

“When we are open, we are going to get as many people as we can,” said Capt. Robert Borger, the officer in charge of the operation for the Florida Army National Guard. “Obviously, if we’re closed for a portion, it’s going to limit the amount of people we can get in for the day.”

Many of the soldiers at the site are trained medical professionals: paramedics, doctors and nurses. About 60 are on duty at Lot J per day. They can help lower the number of police officers and firefighters needed for the essential service.

“We’re here,” Borger said. “We are National Guard soldiers so we volunteered to assist where necessary.”

Typically, the Lot J site is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day or until the daily limit of 400 tests is reached.

Testing at the Lot J site is open to people of all ages who have respiratory symptoms of the coronavirus, as well as health care workers and first responders who have had direct contact with confirmed cases.

UF Health will be conducting testing Thursday and Friday at the Twin Towers Senior Independent Living Community at 617 West 44th St. from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

There will be door-to-door testing and there will be a team outside available for walk-up clients.

If the rain gets heavy or lightning starts, they will discontinue walk-up testing.

There are no other testing sites available without an appointment in Clay, St. Johns, and Nassau counties.

The Prime Osborn site is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week or while supplies last.

The return of test results varies from 24 hours at hospitals to over 10 days at drive-through test sites.

Mayor Lenny Curry tweeted Saturday that about 5% of tests are coming back positive, trending below other metro Florida areas.

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