With COVID-19 case numbers continuing to climb and even spiking recently in local communities, free drive-thru/walk-up coronavirus testing in Gadsden County arrived not a moment too soon.
This past Saturday, the Florida Department of Health in Gadsden County (FDOH-Gadsden) launched its free COVID-19 community drive-thru testing site at Capital Regional Medical Center – Gadsden Memorial ER Campus, 23186 Blue Star Highway in Quincy. Open to the public – any individual, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic – the local testing site will continue to operate through the end of May: from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays; and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturdays.
Public health officials ask everyone who wants to be tested via drive-thru to first make an appointment by calling the Florida Department of Health – Gadsden’s appointment line at (850) 329-0685, anytime between 9 a.m. to 12 noon, Monday through Friday. On the days that the testing site is open, residents who live in the surrounding community who plan to walk to the testing site are asked to visit the Health Department at 278 LaSalle Leffall Drive for testing, instead of the drive-thru site at the nearby ER.
This past Saturday – officially opening day for the Gadsden County site – healthcare workers tested some 271 residents from Gadsden and other nearby counties, officials reported. Test-seekers began arriving at the site as early as 8 a.m. to secure places in what would become a sprawling line of cars.
In response to the growing throngs, a second site was opened Saturday, just behind Gadsden Memorial at the local health department offices.
Ahead of Saturday’s public opening, the Florida Department of Health implemented a “soft launch” of the testing site last Thursday, May 7, allowing the Department to “(1) prioritize testing for local healthcare workers, first responders and other essential staff, (2) conduct a practice run of the entire operation from beginning to end, and (3) identify any areas of concern that needed to be addressed before Saturday’s opening,” a health department news release states.
“Thanks to the preparation and planning that took place, along with the soft launch of the testing site, we were able to assist the Department of Health in serving nearly 300 individuals between 9 and 1, and we were able to do so without any incidents. Everyone worked hard and worked well together in preparing for this event, and it showed,” Captain Bobby Collins of the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office said in a prepared statement.
According to local health officials, the new free COVID-19 testing is made possible in large part by longtime local partners like Capital Regional Medical Center, Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office, members of the Gadsden Community Health Council, Neighborhood Medical Center, Jessie Furlow Medical Center, Gadsden Emergency Services, and the Board of County Commissioners,” a Department of Health news release states.
“As we continue to operate the testing site,” FDOH-Gadsden Health Officer Adrian Cooksey said, “we aren’t only focused on testing, but we’re also focused on educating our residents. Staff have prepared educational packets that residents will receive during their visit. The information packets include a virtual high five celebrating our residents taking the step to know their COVID-19 status, instructions regarding how and when they will receive their test results, as well as several infographics from the state Department of Health on topics such as the importance of social distancing, what to do if they’ve been exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19, and the next steps to take if they test positive.”
“We want our residents to know that they did something great by getting tested,” Cooksey continued. “Not only did they take the necessary steps to know their COVID-19 status, but they also took proactive measures to help keep our entire community safe.”
For general information on COVID-19 in Florida, visit www.floridahealth.gov/covid-19 , email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (866) 779-6121.
Local Call Center Information FDOH-Gadsden has a dedicated COVID-19 hotline for medical questions regarding the virus. Residents may contact FDOH-Gadsden staff at (850) 875-7200 (option #1) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Department has also partnered with the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office and the Board of County Commissioners to operate a community call center to answer questions regarding COVID- 19, how we can protect ourselves and others, up-to-date case information for the county, available resources in the county, as well as information regarding our local response efforts. Residents may contact the Gadsden County COVID-19 Call Center at (850) 743-6070, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,Monday through Friday.
Special to The Herald