The University of Florida Health Shands Hospital and the state are running a new COVID-19 testing site that could determine how prevalent the disease is among asymptomatic people.
The drive-thru site at the Villages retirement community in Central Florida is open to the public on an appointment-only basis. Appointments can be made at the hospital’s website https://ufhealthcovid.com where there will be a pre-screening process to assess symptoms and travel history.
However, if people do not have symptoms or meet the criteria for testing, they can sign up for the UF research study and have the test done.
"You can still elect to have your sample tested by a separate UF developed test for COVID, and so that will go into research to be able to determine how prevalent COVID-19 is among asymptomatic individuals," Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a press conference in The Villages to announce the initiative.
The site has the capacity to test upward of 2,000 people, or 400 a day for the next five days. About 1,600 of the tests will be performed for research purposes on people who are asymptomatic and don’t meet the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for testing, which require people to be symptomatic.
The University of Florida Health Shands Hospital and the state are running the site with a new initiative to broaden coronavirus testing.
“Social distancing is critical to fighting this virus,” said Jeff Lowenkron, chief medical officer of The Villages Health. “The best way to guide this is having a better understanding of how pervasive COVID-19 is in the community. The only way to know that is more robust testing than we have been able to accomplish to date.”
The University of Florida Disease Lab will supply the kits for the research tests.
“We’re proud of our research universities, and this is the type of thing that’s tailored for them to really make an impact,” DeSantis said. “And I think they’re able to do some things that some of the local or state or even federal agencies are not going to be able to do. And so I really applaud them for all that.”
UF aims to have lab results delivered in 24 hours, DeSantis said.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this story.