JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The federal coronavirus testing site in downtown Jacksonville will begin taking people of all ages Monday at 9 a.m. It will also be open to people who live outside of Duval County. However, to be tested, a person must have a temperature of at least 99.6 degrees onsite, along with respiratory symptoms.
The latest figures from the Florida and Georgia health departments show 75 people have tested positive across Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, with Duval County accounting for the most cases on the First Coast.
Duval County has 37 confirmed cases, according to Mayor Lenny Curry as of Sunday.
The federal drive-through testing facility in Lot J at TIAA Bank Field has taken samples from more than 400 people since it opened on Saturday, according to Brian Hughes, CAO with the City of Jacksonville.
Hughes said thanks to the capacity to test for COVID-19 at Lot J, nine testing tents and the ability to get people through in eight to nine minutes, they're able to expand testing. Hughes and Dr. Brad Elias with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, said they expect the number of positive test results to rise as testing expands. People can expect their results in three to seven days.
"We need to put that into context," Dr. Elias said. "That's not necessarily meaning the illness is getting worse. It just means we have captured the people who have tested positive," he said.
Lot J is open seven days a week, nine a.m. to five p.m. until supplies run out. You're asked to not line up before eight a.m. First responders and health care workers can also be tested at Lot J without showing symptoms. You're asked to bring your photo ID, an insurance card if you have one, your own pen have four people maximum in each vehicle and stay in your car.
First Coast News asked city officials when or if they may loosen the criteria for even more people to get tested, like grocery store workers, mailmen and women and others who come in contact with people still.
"Until we have certainty about access to more and more testing kits and more personal protective equipment that those operating the testing sites have to wear, I think there’s an effort to expand the numbers dramatically, but until we have certainty about access to more and more testing kits or more personal protective equipment we need to regulate the numbers,” Hughes said.
Testing at the Prime Osborn Convention Center requires an appointment, and you have to be approved through a pre-screening on the Telescope Health app. You have to be a Duval County resident to be tested there, and it costs $25.
Hughes said they've done more than 700 tests total as of Sunday night at Lot J and the Prime Osborn Center since Friday.
City officials said Camellia at Deerwood assisted living center is a hotspot for positive cases of Coronavirus in Jacksonville, calling it a “pattern of cases.” Hughes said there were many more cases there today than in previous days, but couldn’t give a specific number, referring First Coast News to the Department of Health in Duval County who hasn’t returned FCN’s inquiry. City officials said the state contacted the city about working together to help stop the spread through deep cleaning and working with the staff there. That will start Monday.
“City officials and state officials will be onsite as a team ensuring that we’re doing everything at that location to prevent it from growing more than we can stop,” Hughes said.
As far as recommendations the city has made regarding social distancing and the Coronavirus, Hughes said they know the recommendations are life-altering.
“We know that the measures we’re taking are awful for business and create a lot of pressure on businesses as well as families at home, and again, none of these decisions are made lightly,” Hughes said. “We’re doing the best we can with the information at the time we have it.”
Hughes said most are following their recommendations, but to those who aren’t, he has a message for them.
“When you’re outside of the guidance that’s coming from local, state and federal officials, you’re putting yourself, your families and your neighbors at risk, so we ask everyone to take this guidance seriously,” Hughes said.
“These decisions are going to save lives,” Hughes said.
According to Hughes, if people don’t follow recommendations, the city could increase restrictions, not ruling out home restriction.
“There is no tool in the toolbox that won’t be used if the experts and science says that’s what you need to do. There’s a spectrum of perfect and fast, and if you try to get perfect, you’ll never get it done, and if you move too fast you could hurt people or hurt the economy,” Hughes said.
Hughes said they’re optimistic, but cautious.
“Make no bones about it, it’s like we’re doing well in the region, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have any right to complacency right now,” Hughes said.
“The guidance is there for a reason. The testing is there for a reason. We need to stay diligent and hopefully we can be an example for the rest of the country,” he said.