Demand for Pensacola COVID-19 testing skyrockets as Florida cases continue to climb

Africa Asia Australia Business Canada Europe Florida News Health Latin America Middle East Science Tech UK Uncategorized USA World

On Monday morning, the line of motorists awaiting COVID-19 testing at Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital stretched off the hospital campus, down Bayou Boulevard and onto Ninth Avenue.

A similar line formed around the Department of Health’s testing site on Gregory Street in downtown Pensacola.

As COVID-19 rates in Florida have exploded in recent weeks, so too has the public demand for testing. 

Health officials from Ascension Sacred Heart and community clinic Community Health Northwest Florida both said along with growing demand for tests, they are also seeing an increase in the number of families and young people both seeking testing and testing positive.

More:Gov. DeSantis in Pensacola: COVID-19 growth driven by younger population

More:Escambia, Santa Rosa counties combine for 56 new COVID-19 cases Monday

“We were doing maybe single-digit testing for a little while, but now we’re well into the double digits, maybe even higher as far as the number of tests we’re performing on a daily basis,” said Dr. Michelle Grier-Hall, director of pediatrics and clinical lead of the Incident Management Team at Community Health Northwest Florida.

In an email, Ascension Sacred Heart spokesman Mike Burke said, “Last week, (Monday-Friday) were the five highest volume days since we started COVID-19 testing on March 16. Our drive-thru center saw the majority of patients tested in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. On Friday, we tested 518 people in five hours, testing about two patients per minute.”

Overall, the Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart team has tested more than 13,000 individuals in Pensacola since March 16.

Security personnel at Ascension Sacred Heart keeps on eye on the flow of traffic on the hospital's campus on Monday, June 29, 2020. Traffic jams are increasing, and restrictive traffic flows hamper travel around Sacred Heart's COVID-19 testing site off Bayou Blvd.

Sunday, during a press conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis in Pensacola, Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital President Dawn Rudolph said local health provider were exploring ways to expand testing availability.

The surge in demand comes as Florida’s number of COVID-19 cases has climbed from about 61,000 to nearly 150,000 in the past month.

More:Florida grapples with containing COVID-19 as new cases soar

During the press conference, DeSantis said its seems a major factor in the increase had been people, especially young people, ignoring social distancing protocols.

“Basically, I think from talking to folks, this is basically socializing,” he said. “You have graduation parties, you’re going out and doing different things and in certain environments that is going to be conducive to transmitting the virus.”

Grier-Hall echoed the concerns Monday.

“(We’ve seen increased positives) with babies, children, teenagers that are gathering in daycare centers, playing team sports and doing other group activities,” Hall-Grier said. “We’ve seen some that have been part of the graduations that took place.”

People seeking COVID-19 testing are creating traffic jams and reducing the flow of vehicles around Ascension Sacred Heart off Bayou Blvd on Monday, June 29, 2020.

She said if there was any positive to take away from the new spike in cases, the renewed interest in testing and the increased social pressure for face masking might be a sign people are starting to treat the pandemic more seriously.

I think people got comfortable, and they got tired of social distancing, and quarantining and isolating and doing all those things,” Grier-Hall said. “I get it, but the virus is still out there, and there is more community spread than ever. People are going to, hopefully, pay closer attention, and that the complacency that I think everyone had for a little while is going to go away.”

The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County is performing drive-thru testing at 1300 W. Gregory Streetfrom 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. No appointment or preregistration is needed.

All individuals seeking a test through Ascension Sacred Heart must call its screening call center before being tested at (850) 746-2684. The hospital will test anyone who meets the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for symptoms, and  all first responders. Anyone who does not meet this criteria is given the information for a state-operated testing center at the University of West Florida campus.

Kevin Robinson can be reached at krobinson4@pnj.com or 850-435-8527.

Leave a Reply