Fighting coronavirus is Florida’s biggest mission in the state’s history, emergency officials say

Testing site to open in The Villages

THE VILLAGES, Fla. – Florida officials say they are gearing up to equip the state with what it needs to fight the spread of COVID-19, calling their efforts the largest logistics mission in the state’s history.

“This is larger than any hurricane logistics mission, whether that’s Michael or Irma this dwarfs this by some fold,” said Jared Moskowitz, the director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management.

In a news conference at The Villages Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a partnership between city health officials and the University of Florida Shands Hospital to host a drive-thru testing site in the area.

“It will be tailor made for The Villages because you can do your car through, or your golf cart through and I know a lot of the residents here are going to appreciate doing that,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said the testing location will be staffed with 25 volunteer UF Health medical professionals, health professionals from The Villages and over 100 volunteers UF medical and nursing students.

The site allows testing for individuals living outside The Villages, but the governor stressed that individuals who wish to get tested cannot just show up to do so. Potential patients will be screened with questions, and if criteria is met, that person will be tested. Anyone who wants to be tested needs to visit to be screened and to make an appointment.

[INTERACTIVE MAP: Here’s where to get your drive-thru coronavirus test]

“The staff is going to take 2,000 samples this week, 400 per day, Monday through Friday, it will be 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” DeSantis said of The Villages testing site.

The governor said his hope is that the testing facility in The Villages could emulate that of a testing site established in Broward County that is already seeing patients.

“On the first day we were able to process 745 samples, day two they did 701 samples, then yesterday they did 558 samples,” DeSantis said of medical professionals administering tests at the Broward County site.

Federal testing sites are also scheduled to open to provide relief to private testing sites, such as in The Villages. Federal testing facilities have opened in Jacksonville and Miami, and the state is looking to expand that number.

“Another site is going to be opening on Wednesday in Orange County at the Orange County Convention Center,” DeSantis said. “It’s going to be a similar set up to what we have at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, and at the Jaguar’s Stadium in Jacksonville.”

[READ MORE: Florida coronavirus cases rise to 1,171 confirmed, 14 dead as more testing sites open across state]

DeSantis said more protective equipment would be coming to hospitals around Florida to help meet demand.

“To begin this effort in the next 48 hours, The Department of Emergency Management and the Department of Health will be sending out the following to medical facilities throughout the state: almost 60,000 N-95 masks, 141,000 procedure masks, almost 27,000 shields, almost 22,000 gowns, and 78,000 gloves,” DeSantis said.

When asked if he had considered enacting a shelter-in-place for the state of Florida, DeSantis said emergency, health, and state officials are looking at different options to manage the spread of the coronavirus.

“When you look at what happened in New York when they did the stay at home order, what did people do? A lot of people fled the city,” DeSantis said. “We are getting huge amounts of people flying in, we’re looking at how to address those flights. I talked to the president last night about that. For every action there’s a reaction. We’re going to consider what would make sense for Florida.”

DeSantis said about a third of Florida’s 67 counties have no confirmed cases and another third have few, so he doesn’t yet see the need to impose a near shutdown on their businesses that have been imposed in large counties such as Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach where the disease has spread into the community. Most of the counties with few or no infections are smaller ones along the state’s northern borders or surrounding Lake Okeechobee.

If you are having trouble viewing the map above on mobile, click here.

More than 13,000 people in Florida have been tested for COVID-19 as of Monday, according to the Department of Health.

DeSantis has issued several executive orders to prevent large social gatherings-- closing bars and nightclubs, along with restaurant dining rooms and gyms-- and mitigate possible exposures. He said Monday he thinks this is helping prevent the illness from spreading.

“We have 20 counties with zero infections," DeSantis said, adding 23 counties in Florida have only a few confirmed cases. "That can obviously change, but in those counties we really want those people to get tested and be isolated so we can hopefully prevent an outbreak in some of those areas.”

The DOH updates its testing and case numbers twice daily at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Here’s the breakdown of confirmed cases in Central Florida:

  • Brevard County: 7
  • Lake County: 7
  • Marion County: 4
  • Orange County: 45
  • Osceola County: 24
  • Polk County: 13
  • Seminole County: 20
  • Sumter County: 8
  • Volusia County: 15

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that is highly contagious and spread person-to-person. To help prevent new infections and slow the spread, the U.S. Centers for Disease control recommends people maintain 6 feet apart and do not gather in groups of 10 or more.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 15,000 people have died worldwide from the disease cased by COVID-19.

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About the Author:

Erin began her career at News 6 as an assignment editor, then became a show producer. She is now a digital storyteller as part of the Click Orlando team.