As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Jacksonville and across the state of Florida, residents are being encouraged to take advantage of free testing, especially before exposing themselves to family or friends outside their household.
The number of hospitalizations has also been spiking in the weeks since Thanksgiving. Experts expect that trend to continue if friends and families gather during the upcoming holidays.
“It's very important for people to go in the next two to three days, before Christmas Eve and get tested to contain the spread of the virus and to make sure that you're not exposing friends and family unnecessarily,” said Jillian Harrington, clinical lab expert at Nomi Health. The company is partnering with the Florida Division of Emergency Management to administer rapid antigen and PCR tests for free at the Regency Square Mall.
Upwards of 2,600 people are being tested at the site every day.
The rapid antigen tests, which are specifically for people who believe they are currently infected with the coronavirus, can yield results within 30 minutes.
But, “if you are symptomatic and you have a negative antigen test, there is a small possibility of a false negative,” warned Harrington.
Symptomatic people who get a negative result from an antigen test are encouraged to get a PCR test.
“A PCR test is the gold standard and is able to more definitively characterize people that might have the lower viral loads, which would cause the antigen test potentially being negative,” Harrington explained.
With all tests there is a slight chance of a false negative, but Harrington says in general PCR tests are “very accurate.”
The average wait time at the walk-in Regency Mall testing site is 30 minutes. It’s open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The site will be closed on Dec. 24 and 25.
Schedule an appointment for the Regency site.
Here’s a list of other free testing sites compiled by the city.