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Jacksonville among 3 cities selected by feds for ‘surge’ COVID-19 testing

HHS opened 'surge' COVID-19 testing sites in communities seeing significant increases in cases, hospitalizations

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville was one of three cities where the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services opened “surge” COVID-19 testing sites.

According to HHS, Jacksonville, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Edinburg, Texas, were chosen to receive federal surge testing because they are “hot spot” areas that are seeing “seeing significant increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations and could potentially benefit from additional opportunities to identify new cases, especially for people who are asymptomatic.”

“Federal surge sites, we opened these in three communities. There was a list of communities identified by Dr. (Deborah) Birx and her team that had certain characteristics of their infection trend but also met certain characteristics, numerical numbers and isolation that surge testing might have an impact over a short period of time,” said Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., assistant secretary for health at HHS. “Our goal in those communities is to do at least 5,000 tests per day.”

That’s why three new federally-run COVID-19 testing sites opened Wednesday morning in Jacksonville. The new sites opened in Arlington, the Northside and the Westside and will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for only eight days. All the sites are drive-thru, offer active COVID-19 testing and are open to anyone age 5 and above regardless of symptoms.

Locations

  • First Coast Senior High School, 590 Duval Station Road
  • Frank H. Peterson Academies, 7450 Wilson Blvd.
  • Regency Square Mall – outside old Sears, 9501 Arlington Expressway

The sites will only be open from Wednesday through July 15. To make an appointment, visit DoINeedACOVID19Test.com.

According to HHS, it should take between three and five days for someone who is tested to get their results.

The city’s largest testing site, Lot J, will remain open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through July 15. The mayor said, after that, those operations will move to the inside of the old Sears store at the Regency Square Mall to prevent future closures because of weather. On Wednesday, the Lot J site continued to see long lines as hundreds waited to be tested.

According to data reported Wednesday by the Florida Department of Health, Duval County added more than 600 new coronavirus cases to push Jacksonville over 10,000 total COVID-19 cases.

RELATED: As Duval County COVID-19 cases go up, so does demand for testing

Jacksonville now has 10,439 confirmed coronavirus cases with 70 deaths and 387 hospitalizations. Only two medical facilities in the area will share their numbers: Baptist and UF Health. Baptist on Wednesday reported 133 patients being treated for COVID-19 with 23 in serious condition in the intensive care unit. UF Health reported 74 total cases and 23 patients in the ICU for the coronavirus.

“I think it’s going to get worse. We certainly are preparing for the worst. The hospitals here in Jacksonville are, particularly our hospital, we’re a level one trauma, we are a safety net, we are always here to serve the community for now 150 years and we are continuing to prepare for the worst,” said Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention at UF Health in Jacksonville. “We’re thinking about what if we get 20 patients today and then 100 patients by the weekend. Where are we going to put them? Where are we going to stack beds? The entire city is thinking about those things now. We do anticipate it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

Neilsen said what they are seeing is a rise in non-ICU cases.

“That’s continuing to go on. We are adding 10% to 15% more every day when our doors are open, and these patients are going right into the hospital wards. They might not be ventilated, they might not be ICU, but they are still sick enough to get admitted to the hospital for a higher level of care, and that is concerning,” he said. “If we don’t see more social distancing and we don’t see some good masking and some good government mandates, it’s going to get worse here.”

On Wednesday, News4Jax checked in with Mayor Lenny Curry’s team about whether there is a need to take additional steps to protect Jacksonville residents. The mayor was in self-quarantine after he was exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19, but Jordan Elsbury, his chief of staff, sent the following statement:

“Mayor Curry is very encouraged by the hard work and efforts from the Coronavirus Task Force and White House to protect American lives. Here in Jacksonville, we continue to closely watch the data and encourage citizens to take precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19. Today, three new federal testing sites opened in Jacksonville. These sites combined will allow for an additional 3,750 tests per day in our area. Widespread and increased testing is a crucial part of identifying positive individuals so they can self-quarantine and avoid passing the virus to others. We must continue to work together and take personal responsibility.”


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