COVID-19 tests to be available through doctors

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County residents who need or want a COVID-19 test may soon be able to go to their own doctors for testing.

In his April 29 press conference, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state is working on procedures to allow testing to be conducted at pharmacies. At the April 30 meeting of the Okeechobee County commissioners, Fire/Rescue Chief Ralph Franklin, who is the county’s public safety officer, said the Department of Health is reaching out to pharmacies but none are testing yet. “They are still in process of getting it going,” said the chief.

County Commissioner David Hazellief said with businesses reopening, some people are able to go back to work, but their employers are requiring them to be tested for COVID-19. “What do they do about people getting tested?” he asked. “It’s not a question of paying for it, but how do they accomplish this? We’ve been told if they don’t have the symptoms, they aren’t going to be tested.”

“If you go to your personal doctor, he can order the test,” said Chairman Terry Burroughs.

Mitch Smeykal of the Okeechobee Emergency Operations Center said the county has requested 250 test kits. “Once we get those 250 test kits, we can allocate them out to the doctors,” he explained. “The problem is getting the kits. They told us the test kits were coming yesterday, and they didn’t come yesterday.”

He said it is unlikely the state will set up a National Guard testing site in Okeechobee County because the caseload here is low.

He said there is also a backlog in processing the tests of the samples collected. The state has increased the capacity in the Florida Department of Health labs. “The commercial labs have a lot greater capacity than the DOH labs,” he added.

Mr. Smeykal said the results from the nearly 400 tests on the patients and staff at Okeechobee Health Care Facility are not back yet. Those samples were collected April 24.

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