CHARLOTTE COUNTY — Charlotte County's first drive-thru COVID-19 testing site opened Thursday morning.
The site, located at the Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Road in Port Charlotte, is testing people who have an appointment only. To make an appointment, visit https://COADFL.org/COVID-19-Testing-Assessment to take an assessment to see if you should be tested.
The tests are free and appointments will be made from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today, as well as Tuesday and Thursday next week, according to Charlotte County's Department of Health spokesperson Meranda Pitt. More dates will be scheduled in the future.
Approximately 70 residents were tested Thursday, with two stations administering tests at a time. No one with an appointment was turned away Thursday, Pitt said.
"It was really easy," said Port Charlotte resident Dave Diezel, who got tested Thursday. He went online that morning to take the assessment, and got the test later that day, reporting that it wasn't painful.
Though Diezel was not displaying symptoms, he was concerned he contracted the virus as he's taking care of his father who just had a major surgery.
"He's very susceptible," Diezel said.
The Charlotte County Department of Health had been planning to open a testing site for weeks, according to Charlotte County's Health Officer Joseph Pepe, but the Department of Health has first been focusing more on nursing homes. The Department of Health has conducted testing at 10 long-term care facilities as of May 12, accounting for 145 cases between residents and staff.
As of Thursday morning, there were 356 positive cases in Charlotte County residents, with 72 hospitalizations and 38 deaths.
Pepe said Tuesday in a County Commission update that a second testing site may open in the future. However, that decision has not been made yet, according to Charlotte County spokesperson Brian Gleason. If it were to open, it would be at the South County Regional Park, 670 Cooper St. in Punta Gorda, but they are going to see how testing goes at the Sports Park first.
Charlotte County had an average positive rate of 9.6% Thursday of the 3,711 people who have been tested. This testing site, though, will provide more availability for testing, possibly driving the rate of positivity down, Pepe said.
"We need to have a snapshot of the county," Pepe said.
This site is for COVID-19 testing for those who believe they have the virus. Anti-body testing is not provided at this location.
"They should not have to leave their car at all," Pitts said, with everything from checking-in to the actual testing being done through the window.
Once a person who has an appointment gets to the testing site, Department of Health staff will verify their information and put a form on the patient's windshield so they can pull up to a tent to get tested.
Testing at the site is done through a nasopharyngeal swab, a long, flexible swab inserted through the nostril until it hits the nasopharynx, the upper part of the throat behind the nose, and kept there for a few seconds to absorb the sample.
The tests Thursday will go to a lab out of state, Pepe said.
Officials really want to emphasize that residents should make an appointment beforehand if they want to get tested.
"We don't want large amounts of people in line," Pepe said.
And even though the state is starting to reopen, he wants to reinforce the preventative measures, such as frequently washing your hands and social distancing, that we've been following the past few weeks.
"It's healthy for people to do that," he said, as long as they're following guidance from the health department. "So long as we keep doing that, we'll be OK."
Those who were tested can email CharlotteCOVID@FLHealth.gov with results available in about a week, Pitt said.