Free coronavirus testing will begin Monday in Lee County at CenturyLink Sports Complex, the spring home of the Minnesota Twins.
Drive-thru testing will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for an indefinite period.
News of the testing comes two days after Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled his reopening plan for the state.
At the direction of the governor, the Florida Division of Emergency Management said it was expanding testing capacity by opening additional drive-thru testing sites in Lee, as Escambia, Sarasota, Broward and Miami-Dade counties and walk-up testing sites in Collier, Dade and Palm Beach counties. The walk-up testing in Collier begins in Immokalee on Sunday.
Public testing is part of the plan to gradually restore commercial activity and eventually a normal life in public spaces for members of the public. Information from the tests will be used to plan for reopening businesses and places where the public gathers, county officials said.
“Ramping up our testing has helped us achieve our goal of detecting any new cases so we can get an accurate picture of how many of our citizens are affected,” Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman said. “It will also help us monitor our progress as we go back to work.”
As Hamman and representatives of state and health and emergency agencies explained the new testing, workers began erecting tents that will be used by members of the Florida National Guard and other agencies that will handle traffic control and testing.
The tents were being erected on the Mauer and Killebrew lanes of the Hammond Stadium parking lot off of Ben C. Pratt/Six Mile Cypress Parkway in Fort Myers.
No doctor’s note or appointment will be required for the testing.
People who submit to the test will be notified of the result within days. Information about the positive results will be provided to the local office of the state Department of Health.
The health agency will continue to trace each positive case from its likely source to contacts made during the coronavirus incubation period where others could have been exposed to the virus.
People who may have been in contact with a carrier will be informed and advised to get tested.
Angela Smith, state Department of Health administrator for Lee County, said people who test positive will be notified. The workers who gather the information will share that information with the department which will “trigger” contract tracing of the virus through people who test positive.
Health agencies have 38 people working on coronavirus contact tracing. They will interview people who have tested positive, asking where they have been and with whom they were in close contact. The health agency will follow up with people who were exposed.
The testing program will continue indefinitely, but could be adjusted depending on whether demand falls below or exceeds expectations.
Hamman said the line of cars queuing up for the testing will be closed at 3 p.m. so that everyone in line can be tested.
Hamman said there is “no guarantee (for) turnaround time” for a test sample to be processed and a result reported. He did note that there have been private laboratories having results ready in 24-48 hours.
A second testing facility, for first responders and health care workers, will be set up by Quest Diagnostics at the Walmart on Lee Boulevard in Lehigh Acres and will operate from 7 a.m until 10 a.m Monday through Friday.
Testing at Walmart will be by appointment only. Eligible people can make an appointment by visiting myquestcovidtest.com.