COVID-19 testing strategies could change as pandemic winds down, health officials say

Multiple testing opportunities available this week

Orange County leaders call for more to get tested at mobile site
Orange County leaders call for more to get tested at mobile site

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – As leaders continue to ramp up coronavirus testing efforts throughout the county, health officials say the strategy that has been used to set up and operate testing sites could change as the pandemic winds down.

Orange County Health Officer Dr. Raul Pino said during a news conference Monday that several COVID-19 testing sites scheduled to take place this week still have a lot of availability.

For example, the testing site set up at Independence Elementary School Monday tested 187 patients, 157 of whom scheduled appointments. The other 30 were walk-in patients. Pino said the site has the capacity to test 500 people per day.

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

Pino said health officials expect the number of people who are interested in getting tested for the coronavirus could drop as the pandemic slows, which has county leaders rethinking their testing strategy moving forward.

“Maybe as the pandemic (cools off) a little bit, there is no need for large testing sites, like we did when we had large numbers. And maybe the strategy has to be multiple, smaller testing sites as the number of people interested in getting tested declines," Pino said.

Pino said those potential changes are still up for discussion. For now, increasing testing availability remains a top priority in Orange County, according to Mayor Jerry Demings.

So far, more than 37,000 COVID-19 tests have been administered in Orange County, Pino said. The continued efforts to increase testing come as Orange County’s curve appears to be flattening.

On Friday, the percent positive of COVID-19 cases in Orange County stood at 4.5%, according to Pino. On Monday, it had dropped lower to 4%, Pino said in the news conference.

Pino said the continued drop in positivity rate is a good sign and that the county’s curve is performing well.

According to Pino, a single-digit number of positive cases has been reported five out of the last 14 days.

[UPDATE: See Florida’s curve when it comes to coronavirus cases]

More than 3,250 tests have been administered at three Orange County schools throughout the last several days, according to Dr. Yolanda Martinez, with Orange County Health Services. Of the 1,850 results received from those tests, only 25 were positive, she said.

Of 1,532 COVID-19 test results received yesterday, only three were positive, Pino said.

He said Orange County’s curve appears to be in good shape but that continued progress depends on personal and social responsibility.

Demings, along with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, emphasized the importance of wearing personal protective gear in public and practicing good hygiene to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Dyer also said, like the county, the city is also working to ramp up testing efforts to make data-driven decisions about how to safely reopen Central Florida’s economy.

Two new mobile testing sites will be set up in Orlando, with the first set to open Thursday and the second expected to open May 19. Testing is free to anyone 18 or older with an Orlando ID and will be offered from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Dyer said. Click here to set up an appointment.

The city of Orlando is also partnering with the Florida Department of Health to host mobile testing Wednesday at Camping World Stadium from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

According to Pino, the following Orange County test sites still have availability this week:

TUESDAY: Olympia High School, only 268 appointments made so far. The site can test up to 500.

WEDNESDAY: Camping World Stadium, only 132 appointments made so far, but lots of walk-ins expected at this site, Pino said.

THURSDAY: Evans High School, only 73 appointments made so far.

FRIDAY: – Prairie Lake Elementary School, only 38 appointments made so far. Pino said the site can test up to 250.

Pino said anyone interested in getting tested for COVID-19 should call and set up an appointment at 407-723-5004.

Drive-thru coronavirus testing is still being offered on a first-come, first-served basis at the Orange County Convention Center, where up to 750 patients can be tested per day, county officials said. Antibody testing is also available on site for health care workers and first responders.

At last check, Orange County had 1,512 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 35 deaths, according to the Florida Department of Health’s coronavirus dashboard.

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