You Had Coronavirus Questions. Here Are The Answers From The Duval Health Department

22 hours ago

Last updated: March 20

Several readers have reached out with questions about coronavirus. Here are the answers the Duval County Health Department shared with WJCT News:

What questions do you have about coronavirus and its impact on Northeast Florida or Southeast Georgia? Email us at news@wjct.org, and we might add your question and the answer to this post.

Q: Who is eligible for a coronavirus test? 

A: As of March 15, the state has expanded its criteria for testing to allow doctors to test at their discretion.

The new state Department of Health guidance is a significant expansion of the previous criteria, which restricted testing mainly to those who traveled internationally or were exposed to a confirmed existing case.

The new DOH testing guidance for doctors is as follows:

If your patient is exhibiting symptoms of acute lower respiratory illness (e.g., fever, cough, and shortness of breath) and meets one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Persons who have had a close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 case
  2. Persons hospitalized with acute lower respiratory illness of unknown origin
  3. History of travel to or from an affected geographic area with widespread community transmission
  4. History of international travel or a cruise
  5. ≥65 with chronic health conditions
  6. Immunocompromised persons

If your patient does not meet the above criteria, testing may occur based on clinician’s judgement.

Q: In Northeast Florida, where can patients get a coronavirus test? Do all area hospitals have them?

AAscension St. Vincent's opened a drive-up testing site on March 17. To qualify for testing at the site, patients must be pre-screened by a primary care physician. Those screenings can be done in person, by phone, or virtually using Ascension Online Care.

The City of Jacksonville and Baptist Health are running a site at the Prime Osborn Convention Center Downtown for Duval County residents only, by appointment only.

Due to high volume, Telescope Health encourages only DUVAL COUNTY RESIDENTS with symptoms and pre-existing conditions to download the app for COVID-19 pre-screening. Those without symptoms will not be pre-screened or scheduled for a test. Individuals encouraged for pre-screening include:

  • Those over age 65, with severe pre-existing conditions
  • Those with a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, combined with either dry cough or shortness of breath 

How it works:

  • Download the Telescope Health app and register for a free account.
  • After registration, enter promo code “HERE4YOU” to receive a discounted rate to later be reimbursed by the City of Jacksonville
  • After patient information is added, the patient can complete a virtual physician visit to pre-screen for COVID-19.
  • If patient requires COVID-19 testing, the app will notify the patient with an order number to include designated timeslot and date for testing at Prime Osborn Center. 
  • Test results take approximately 3-5 days and a Telescope Health physician will contact the patient for appropriate follow-up care, whether results are positive or negative for COVID-19.  

A federally run site will open at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 21, at TIAA Bank Field, no appointment necessary.

The site will operate seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for as long as supplies last. While a doctor’s order and appointment are not required at this location, clients will be evaluated by a medical professional on site. Patients who do not meet the criteria will not receive a test and will be sent home.

Those attempting to be tested should:

  • Bring their own pen
  • Photo Identification
  • Refrain from taking any fever-reducing medicine four to six hours before testing
  • Healthcare workers and first responders need to bring work identification
  • Remain inside of vehicle at all times

Testing will only be performed for anyone 65 years or older with an on-site temperature of 99.6 degrees or higher who are also exhibiting respiratory symptoms. Additionally, first responders and healthcare workers who have direct contact with patients will be tested regardless of the presence of symptoms. Everyone else will be turned away.

A maximum of four people per car will be screened and tested; each person must be sitting at a functioning window. Additional passengers will be asked to move to the back of the line or return the following day.

As long lines are expected, please follow the directions of Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office traffic officers:

  • Drivers coming from the West side of town should use Bay Street.
  • Drivers coming from the East side should use Gator Bowl Boulevard.

Public restrooms will not be available. American Sign Language and Spanish-language interpreters will be on-site to assist.

State officials on Monday, March 16, announced testing of nursing home residents would begin, even if they don't meet the CDC testing guidance. That testing would have to be performed at commercial labs.

The department of health says all healthcare providers are able to collect upper respiratory tract specimens (through nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabs) and send them to labs.  The specimens must be tested at either a Florida Department of Health laboratory or a commercial lab (i.e. LabCorp or Quest).

Q: Does current state guidance allow testing of people coming from areas within the U.S. where there are known cases of coronavirus?

A: Yes, as of March 15. See criteria above.

If a patient meets the criteria, medical providers should notify their health facility’s infection control personnel and the Duval County Health Department right away. 

Q: How many people are being monitored for suspected coronavirus in Northeast Florida? 

A: In order to protect personally identifiable health information of Floridians, the Florida Department of Health is not releasing community-specific numbers of people who are under public health monitoring or have been tested for coronavirus. 

Aggregate state level information is on the state's coronavirus dashboard. This information is updated daily.

“Balancing the privacy of the individuals being tested and Floridians to disclose information to protect the public is a vital role of the Florida Department of Health. Due to the nature of a unique virus, such as COVID-19, to share how many people in each community that have been tested or are under public health monitoring could potentially release identifying information, especially in Florida’s smaller communities,” the Health Department said. 

Additionally, the Florida Department of Health is encouraging all Floridians to be aware. Floridians should practice good hand hygiene and wash their hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds, use a tissue when they sneeze or cough and immediately dispose of it in the trash and stay home if they are sick.

Q: A traveler who returned to Jacksonville from Italy in the last two weeks now has a fever and a cough. Where can he go for a test, and how much will it cost him?

A: Travelers (and anyone else) can check their risk for coronavirus exposure using this CDC risk assessment

People should remain alert. If they feel feverish or develop cough or difficulty breathing, they should take their temperature, limit contact with others, and seek advice by telephone from a healthcare provider or their local health department to determine whether medical evaluation is needed.

If public health authorities determine someone qualifies for active monitoring, the state or local public health authority will regularly communicate with the potentially exposed person. For people with high-risk exposures, CDC recommends communication at least once each day.                 

More information for travelers from the CDC is here.

Source: Florida Department of Health in Duval County spokeswoman Samantha Epstein. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Updated on March 17 to include new state testing criteria.

Corrected on 3/12/20 at 7:45 p.m.: The URL of the state's daily COVID-19 update webpage was corrected. We regret the error.

Contact WJCT News Director Jessica Palombo at 904-358-6315, jpalombo@wjct.org or on Twitter at @JessicaPubRadio.