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Unable To Drive? Miami Firefighters Offer At-Home COVID Testing For Elderly

Drive-thru testing for COVID-19 is now available in many parts of the state. But to participate, you must have a vehicle.
Drive-thru testing for COVID-19 is now available in many parts of the state. But to participate, you must have a vehicle.

The largest drive-through testing site for the novel coronavirus in Miami-Dade County is located at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. The site was opened in coordination with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with other sites in Jacksonville and Orlando.

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One of the prerequisites to access testing at the site is slightly self-explanatory: you must come in a vehicle.

"Unfortunately, I don’t have information as to where someone without a car would go,” said Kim Prenter, the public information officer for the Hard Rock Stadium testing site.

In response to this service gap and other concerns, the City of Miami has now started a program that will allow some residents to get tested from their own homes.

Under the program, the city has started a hotline in which people over age 65 can call if they are having symptoms and wish to be tested, but are wheelchair-bound, homebound, or otherwise having issues driving to a drive-through test site. Once they call, the City of Miami Fire Department will arrive at their home to take samples, which are then sent to a lab.

The number to call is 305-960-5050.

The program was conceived by Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes.

“I feel more comfortable now that our senior residents, they could have peace of mind that if they have any of the symptoms, they don’t have to go any place, that we will go there,” Reyes told WLRN. 

The first day of operation, on Monday, about 40 elderly residents were tested, said Reyes.

“Remember that the most vulnerable age group is those that are over 65,” said Reyes. “I really hope that the whole county adopts this program that I proposed.”

Calls to the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County about what residents can do if they don’t have access to a car were deferred to the federal testing sites in Miami, Jacksonville and Orlando, which require vehicles. The Florida Department of Health in Broward County did not respond to requests for comment.

Broward County Sheriff Greg Tony, whose staff is helping control drive-thru testing sites in Broward County, said non-vehicle testing sites do not sound like a good idea.

"If you introduce a walk-up testing site, you're gonna have literally a line of thousands of people," Tony told WLRN in an interview. "So it's kind of counterintuitive to the executive orders that are going out by the governor and the Centers for Disease Control and the president related to social distancing. If you put people in lines, there's going to be further spread."

The Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County said that no drive-through options are available in that county right now, and that anyone who wishes to get tested should contact their healthcare provider as a first step.

The creation of the City of Miami’s program follows a letter Reyes sent last week to Gov. Ron DeSantis, voicing concern about how elderly residents will be impacted by the novel coronavirus, noting the city’s elderly population is very poor.

“Many struggle to cover the cost of their prescription drugs and don’t have a preventative health care plan,” read the letter. “They are dependent on public transportation and other human services programs such as Meals On Wheels in their daily routine. It is our responsibility to take care of our most vulnerable residents.”

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