PEMBROKE PINES, FLA. (WSVN) - As the demand for coronavirus testing continues to grow across South Florida, two more test sites have become operational, but long lines have been an endurance test for many.
In Miami-Dade County, a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Larkin Community Hospital in Hialeah opened on Friday at 12 p.m., and in Broward County, testing at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines became operational at around 9 a.m.
Members of the National Guard along with healthcare workers from Memorial Healthcare System could be seen screening first responders at C.B. Smith Park early in the morning.
Just a short time after opening, a long line of vehicles wrapped around the park and surrounding area.
Paula Wright was one of those who waited to be tested at the park, Friday. She said she spent nine hours waiting to have her 87-year-old mother tested for the coronavirus.
”It was a disaster,” she said. “You were driving around the whole park like you were driving in a maze. I was there since 10 o’clock this morning, and I didn’t leave until about half an hour ago. My mom goes to a senior center and has been home since Monday, and she’s had this cough, and she’s been wheezing.”
A cellphone video recorded by the daughter of an 87-year-old woman with symptoms of the coronavirus showed the long line of cars ahead of her four hours into her wait.
On Saturday morning, the long line outside C.B. Smith Park could be seen once again just as the testing site opened up.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the testing site is open to the general public and no appointment is necessary, but patients have to meet certain requirements.
“The people who will meet the conditions are if you’re 65 or older, if you’re symptomatic, if you’ve been on a cruise or affected area, if you’re immunocompromised — that’s the group that’s going to be the focus on to start,” said DeSantis. “So just understand that, I do not want to have someone wait in line for three hours just to figure out they’re 40 years old, and that’s not where we’re going on this yet. Now, my hope is as we get more supplies, we’ll be able to expand the ranges for this drive-thru testing.”
He said those who do not meet the aforementioned criteria could be turned away.
“I don’t want anyone to wait a long time to get into the site and then have to be turned away because they don’t meet the criteria,” Memorial Healthcare System spokesperson Dr. Jennifer Goldman said.
The C.B. Smith Park and Larkin Community Hospital drive-thru testing sites will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
“Make sure you bring food and water with you, and I hate to say it, but they’re not allowing people to use the restroom so bring a pee pad,” Wright said.
Organizers with Larkin Community Hospital said they would start by using 500 tests a day, every day of the week.
Those who want to stop by and get tested at the Hialeah site have to register online first.
“It’s important that we use this resource very carefully and that people just don’t get tested because they’re afraid,” said Larkin Community Hospital Board Chairman Jack Michel.
They also plan on testing first responders and medical personnel, as well as those who have traveled to coronavirus hotspots, before testing others.
“In addition to that, we are deploying 25 beds in our second floor that are going to be set up with negative pressure, so that we can start taking care of the first people that need hospitalization for COVID-19,” said Michel.
A number of other drive-thru testing sites have already opened across South Florida, including Community Health of South Florida in Southwest Miami-Dade.
“We are very quickly becoming the epicenter of the [COVID-19] spread,” U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., said.
Testing at Community Health of South Florida is currently for their regular patients only, but they hope to open it to the general public soon.
“Hopefully this will alleviate the fears in the community as far as whether you have the disease or not,” Jack Michel, board chairman of Larkin Community Hospital, said.
Tents have been set up in the parking lot of Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, but testing there has not yet started.
The Cleveland Clinic in Weston opened the first drive-thru testing site in Broward County.
For the Cleveland Clinic site, people are screened over the phone first, and only those with fever along with a cough or shortness of breath will qualify for the test.
Testing through Broward Health in Pompano Beach began Thursday afternoon. Those who show up must have a prescription from a doctor and a scheduled appointment.
“We have a capacity here to start with about 300 tests per day,” said Broward Health CEO Gino Santorio. “The average wait time for getting swabbed while you ride up in your car in approximately three minutes, so it’s running very efficiently.”
Those who have been tested can expect to get their results back three to five days later. Larkin Community Hospital organizers said they are promising patients their test results in two days.
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