Drive-thru testing sites will soon have dedicated lanes for symptomatic Floridians to receive expedited COVID-19 diagnostic test results.
Sample testing labs are in a crunch with tens of thousands of new samples coming in from Florida daily, and more nationally. Results that under contract were supposed to take less than 48 hours can now sometimes take weeks to return results.
But with dedicated lanes, opening next week in Miami-Dade, Broward and Orange counties, Gov. Ron DeSantis says people who already show symptoms of COVID-19 should be able to get results in the subsequent 72 hours.
“If you’re symptomatic, obviously you need to know whether you have coronavirus or you have something else,” he told reporters in Jacksonville Thursday.
The Governor also hoped to reassure Floridians as the state continues to record several thousand new cases each day, including 8,935 new cases between Wednesday and Thursday mornings. More than half of people who are testing positive for the disease in Florida are younger than 40 and outside the at-risk demographic.
“You should take precautions, but there’s no need to be panicked. There’s no need to be fearful,” DeSantis said. “We understand the situations that make this thing more transmissible. We also understand the groups that are the most at-risk for this.”
And he shared the frustrations of people who have received diagnostic tests who still await their results.
“If you’re asymptomatic, what are you supposed to do? Stay home and wait if you’re not sick?” he said.
A select group of COVID-19 testing sites will begin offering antibody testing to the general public, the state’s latest effort to measure the coronavirus’ reach.
More than a dozen state-operated drive-thru testing sites have offered serological tests for first responders and medical professionals alongside diagnostic testing for the average Floridian. Now, some of those sites are opening up antibody testing lanes for those outside the priority groups.
On Monday, the Governor mentioned he wanted to make diagnostic testing more broadly available. Diagnostic testing gives a snapshot of whether someone currently has the virus — or perhaps whether they had it days or weeks later, depending on how long it takes the results to return.
For more than a month, the state has made antibody testing available for the general public at five drive-thru sites in South Florida, Orlando and Jacksonville.
“There’s a lot of folks that are worried — maybe I have it, maybe I don’t,” DeSantis said. “If you don’t have symptoms and you test negative, just understand, you could always acquire it the next day. If you do an antibody test and you do have the presence of antibodies, that’s really significant information.”
Antibody testing, which can indicate whether someone already fought off the virus, are available on demand for medical professionals and first responders at several drive-thru facilities. But with a limited number of serological tests, members of the general public have only been tested through scientific studies.
According to the CDC, testing positive for COVID-19 antibodies may provide protection from contracting the virus again, though they note the antibodies may detect alternative coronavirus strains that may not provide protection from the current novel coronavirus. It’s also currently unknown how long or even if that protection would occur.
Three federal pop-up testing sites in Jacksonville tested 34,000 individuals Wednesday, its first day of operation. Those sites, part of the federal assistance for Florida as it becomes a leading hot spot, will remain open there through Wednesday, July 15.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has also opened other pop-up sites across the country.