JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis says he has filed an emergency request asking for $5 million to be budgeted to three COVID-19 testing sites.
The sites would be located at the Shoppes at Sherwood, Lane Wiley Center, and College Park Center.
He says the sites were chosen to accommodate people from all sides of town, and would also offer COVID-19 vaccines.
“As a community, we must make testing not only widely available but also convenient with accessibility to public transportation. Identifying those infected will obviously prevent the continuous spread by requiring immediate quarantine.” Dennis said.
The $5 million dollars would come from the city’s general fund and keep the sites up and running for two months, according to the district 9 city council member.
“It's time for us to put our money where our mouth is. The City of Jacksonville, we have a lot of money in our reserves – $200 million," Dennis explained. "And this is just a small fraction of the people's money to put back and give back to the people of Jacksonville.“
This comes as hundreds of people across the First Coast search for testing locations as COVID-19 cases across the area spike.
First Coast News reached out to Mayor Curry's Office for a statement. Jordan Elsbury, Chief of Staff, sent this response.
“Mayor Curry and our administration have been working tirelessly over the past week with Council Members, the Florida Department of Health and local healthcare providers to identify several locations for COVID-19 testing throughout Duval County. Details are being finalized and a formal announcement will be made soon. We hope to have these testing locations available for citizens in the coming weeks.”
Dennis says the emergency legislation will be voted on during the city council meeting next Tuesday. It has to go through two votes: one to declare the legislation an emergency, and another to pass it.
If it’s approved, he says, Agape should be able to open the new sites by the following week.
Two weeks ago, hundreds of people waiting in line to get tested for COVID-19 at the Duval County Health Department's site downtown told First Coast News that they had been there for hours.
Now people are waiting days, with free testing appointment slots filling up at local testing facilities like Walgreens and other healthcare facilities.
The uptick in testing is leaving many people with the only option of waiting for a test, or shelling out upwards of $100 to get rapid tested at paid testing sites.
The Florida Health Department offers free COVID-19 testing at their Central Plaza location at 515 W. 6th Street.
There is currently no free city-run COVID-19 testing site.
Jacksonville is one of the most affected cities by surging COVID-19 cases. In response to the spike in cases, several hospitals are postponing surgeries and limiting the number of visitors.
The resurgence of COVID-19 cases also led the Duval County School Districts to review its mask guidelines, while JEA reimplemented its mask mandate for workers.