FL Governor Opens Up State Coronavirus Testing Sites To Everyone

Home / FL Governor Opens Up State Coronavirus Testing Sites To Everyone

TAMPA, FL — While decidedly more optimistic than before, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’s remaining cautious about lifting stay-at-home orders and allowing nonessential businesses to open.

At a news conference Monday at Tampa General Hospital, DeSantis said the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients is on a downward curve, with even the hardest-hit area — Miami-Dade County — having 45 percent of its ICU beds open.

Only 400 coronavirus patients are currently using the 6,408 ventilators available at hospitals around the state. And the overwhelming number of people being tested for the coronavirus in Florida have gotten negative results.

“In the last four days, just 6 percent of those tested were positive,” he said.

He said the outlook is much different from late March.

“Just six weeks ago, we were told all the hospital would be overrun and people wouldn’t be able to get the care they needed,” DeSantis said. “A lot of doomsday scenarios have simply not come to pass.”

While he’s not prepared to throw open Florida’s borders, DeSantis said this signals the beginning of a return to normalcy.

“We’re seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. But slow and steady wins the race. It’s going to be very methodical and data driven,” he said. “This is uncharted territory. No one knows what this will do, so you want to go slow and steady and make the best decisions you can.”

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The downward curve will result in some immediate changes, however. DeSantis said he’s opening up state-sponsored drive-thru testing sites to the general public rather than limiting tests to those who are prescreened and show certain symptoms of the coronavirus.

“Before, the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] didn’t have enough tests, and we wanted to make sure those who were sick got tested,” he said. “Now, our capacity exceeds the demand at those sites. Our drive-through sites are now open for anyone to get tested. If you have any symptoms or if you know someone who’s tested positive, come in and get tested. We want to be more proactive on the testing.”

These include the state-run drive-thru sites in Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami and Tampa. Find a list of coronavirus drive-thru testing sites in Florida compiled by the Florida Medical Association.

He said he’s also opening up walk-thru sites at public housing facilities around the state for those who don’t drive.

Additionally, DeSantis has sent four-person National Guard strike teams to 6,000 nursing homes to test residents and staff for the coronavirus, focusing on asymptomatic carriers who may unknowingly spread the virus. The rate of fatalities at nursing facilities is 1.2 per 100,000 people, he said.

Tampa General Hospital President John D. Couris agreed that things are looking up.

“In late March and early April, we peaked at TGH with 14 cases,” Couris said.

Of the 57 people with the coronavirus who were admitted to TGH, 50 have now been released. The hospital currently has only eight coronavirus patients remaining in an isolated unit.

“We, along with other hospitals in the area, are ready to reopen,” he said.

While the hospital will maintain CDC guidelines and continue to limit visitors, Couris said, residents shouldn’t be worried about going to the emergency room if they’re experiencing chest pains, signs of strokes or other symptoms that may indicate a serious health condition.

He added that the hospital plans to resume elective surgeries May 11.

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