Your Coronavirus Questions, Answered Here

Jul 1, 2020

Last updated: July 1

Several readers have reached out with questions about coronavirus. Here are the answers.

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

Q: Who is eligible for a coronavirus test? 

Q: In Northeast Florida, where can patients get a coronavirus test?

Q: Why might I want to get a coronavirus antibody test? And where can I get one in Northeast Florida?

Q: Will hospitals in Jacksonville take homemade masks and other supplies? 

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

Q: What can I do if coworkers are sick but won’t stay home, or my boss won’t let them stay home?

Q: Has anyone tested positive, or have been hospitalized, from the Beaches?

Q: Do we know how long an asymptomatic COVID-infected person remains contagious?

Q: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Safer At Home” executive order says seniors and people with significant underlying medical conditions “shall stay at home,” but does that mean they have to?

Q: What do I do if I suspect price gouging during the pandemic? 

Q: A traveler who returned to Jacksonville from Italy in the last two weeks now has a fever and a cough. What should he do?

Q: How long does COVID-19 stay on non-treated surfaces?

Q: Does Advil worsen the symptoms of COVID-19?

ANSWERS

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 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 judgment. [Return To Questions List]

Q: In Northeast Florida, where can patients get a coronavirus test?

A comprehensive list of testing sites in Duval County is on the city of Jacksonville's website here. This list is updated every day.

Some sites that offer testing in Duval County:

CareSpot Urgent Care centers in Greater Jacksonville offer COVID-19 evaluations and testing 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

Patients can call ahead, schedule online, or walk in at their convenience at the following locations:

The following sites are set up to test large numbers of people per day:

AIn Duval County:

  • Ascension St. Vincent's has a drive-up testing site open 8 a.m. to noon weekdays. To qualify for testing at the site, patients must be pre-screened by an Ascension primary care physician. Those screenings can be done in person, by phone, or virtually using Ascension Online Care.

Download the app at www.ascension.org/OnlineCare. Use code HOME for a discounted $20 visit. No insurance is required.

  • A state-run site is 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.

Those attempting to be tested should:

  • Bring their own pen
  • Bring Photo ID
  • Refrain from taking any fever-reducing medicine four to six hours before testing
  • Remain inside of vehicle at all times
  • Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville at 4500 San Pablo Road S. is offering drive-up testing for its established patients only from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Testing requires prescreening by a Mayo Clinic physician. Mayo Clinic says it can return results within 24 hours and can process more than 1,000 tests per day.
  • MedExpress Urgent Care at 11985 Atlantic Blvd. Patients are asked to call (904) 642-1217 and get screened for eligibility to get a test. According to the MedExpress Urgent Care website, drive-up service will be available "as needed."

In St. Johns County:

  • Flagler Health+ at 400 Health Park Blvd, St. Augustine - This outdoor test collection site is for patients who have a physician order for COVID-19 testing and have pre-registered. Flagler Health+ currently has a limited quantity of test kits.
  • Florida Department of Health at 200 San Sebastian View, St. Augustine - This collection site is for patients who have a physician’s order for COVID-19 testing.
  • Avencia Medical Julington Creek Branch at 1633 Race Track Road, St Johns. Phone: (904) 230-6988  - This test collection site is for law enforcement officers, first responders and their spouses only. Employee ID required. Testing does not require symptoms. The site does not take appointments, but Avencia prefers calls ahead to provide instructions.

Symptomatic patients are asked to wait in the car. Avencia will charge insurance but is waiving all co-pays and out of pocket costs.

  • The Med One Urgent Care- St. Augustine at 841 S Ponce De Leon Blvd., Ste. 4, St. Augustine Open to the public from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, as a COVID-19 collection site. Collection may be billed as a doctor’s visit and/or lab test. The collection facility has signage and has requested that visitors follow the signs as instructed for parking. For additional information, please call 904-436-1553 or visit https://medoneatsaintaugustine.com/

In Clay County:

Starting July 3, free community-based testing is available at the Department of Health in Clay County Administration Building at 1305 Idlewild Ave. in Green Cove Springs.  The site is open 8 a.m. -4 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

The following clinics also offer testing for both insured and uninsured patients:

  • Palms Medical Group Orange Park 904-688-3000
  • Aza Health Green Cove Springs 904-284-5904
  • Aza Health Keystone Heights 352-473-6595

  [Return To Questions List]

Q: Why might I want to get a coronavirus antibody test? And where can I get one in Northeast Florida?

A: According to NPR’s Shots blog: “Antibody tests identify people who have previously been infected with the coronavirus. They do not show whether a person is currently infected.”

A word of caution: Due to a glut of unregulated antibody tests, individual results may not be accurate, so health officials don’t believe people should make health decisions based solely on what they say.  Still, in aggregate, they can be a helpful gauge of how far coronavirus has spread in a community.

“This is primarily a good way to track the spread of the coronavirus through a population,” NPR says.

Antibody testing is available:

In Duval County:

For first responders and health care workers only: at the state-run site outside of TIAA Bank Field

In St. Johns County:

At Avencia Medical - Julington Creek Branch, 1633 Race Track Road, St Johns, FL 32259

It is not required but helpful to bring a copy of test results to show you have previously tested positive for the virus. The cost is $255 including the office visit for the antibody testing. Some insurances will cover costs. Patients can walk in without an appointment but cannot have symptoms. For additional information, call 904-230-6988 or visit www.avecina.com/our-services/urgent-care/.

[Return To Questions List]

Q: Will hospitals in Jacksonville take homemade masks and other supplies? 

As of Wednesday, March 25, Baptist Health is looking for donated 100% cotton masks and other personal protective equipment. More information is here.

Several Northeast Florida groups are making masks to combat the shortage in hospitals, emergency rooms and assisted living facilities. If you are interested in helping or donating materials or money, read more about these groups here.  [Return To Questions List]

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.

Data about how many people are infected in each ZIP code and county is on the state's coronavirus dashboard. This information is updated twice 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,” a Health Department spokesperson said in an email to WJCT News in early March.

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.  [Return To Questions List] 

Q: Has anyone tested positive, or have been hospitalized, from the Beaches?

A: Here are the numbers of positive COVID-19 tests in the Beaches of Duval County and northern St. Johns County, as of Monday, April 6:

  • Atlantic Beach: 3 cases
  • Neptune Beach: 4 cases
  • Jacksonville Beach: 25 cases
  • Ponte Vedra Beach: 32 cases

See the numbers of positive cases for all cities (as of April 6), along with a host of other state data, here.

Check your ZIP code’s numbers on the state coronavirus dashboard here (select the Cases by ZIP Code tab at the bottom of the page). The dashboard is updated with new data twice per day.

The Florida Department of Health said the ZIP code data is “ideally a representation of a COVID-19 positive person's residence. However, there are instances where the ZIP code may reflect the hospital where a person was admitted or tested.” The state said it’s working to review the case locations and correct any inconsistencies.

As of Monday, April, 6, 44 people had been hospitalized with COVID-19 in Duval County and 23 in St. Johns County.  [Return To Questions List]

Q: Do we know how long an asymptomatic COVID-infected person remains contagious?

A: "Can those people who are completely asymptomatic, who never develop any symptoms, transmit the infection? That's still kind of an open question," Tara Smith, a Kent State University epidemiologist, told NPR.

What we do know is that completely asymptomatic COVID-19-positive people tend to be the exception rather than the rule. So far, about 75% of people who test positive without showing symptoms turn out to be presymptomatic; displaying coughing, fatigue, fever and other signs of COVID-19 in a later follow-up exam. That’s because symptoms can take up to two weeks after an infection to appear.   

For those who have COVID-19 symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home, the CDC says they may discontinue isolation under the following conditions:

  •  At least three days (72 hours) have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) occurs.
  • At least a week has passed since symptoms first appeared.

You can read more about what scientists know about people without symptoms on NPR’s Goats and Soda blog. [ Return To Questions List ]

Q: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Safer At Home” executive order says seniors and people with significant underlying medical conditions “shall stay at home,” but does that mean they have to?

A: No.

People 65 and older and anyone with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC, which is why they are singled out in this executive order. But the governor’s office has come out and said that these residents can leave their homes to “obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities,” so the “shall stay at home” part is really more of a suggestion.

According to the order, essential activities include attending religious services, recreational activities, taking care of pets, and caring for a loved one or friend. 

A list of essential services is at FloridaDisaster.org. [Return To Questions List]

Q: What can I do if coworkers are sick but won’t stay home, or my boss won’t let them stay home?

A: You can report sick people and employers to local and state authorities. 

Florida law allows the state surgeon general to enforce isolation or quarantine on people with contagious diseases who pose a threat to public health. Violating those isolation or quarantine orders is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail or a fine of up to $500.

If you suspect someone of posing a danger to public health, you can report them to the Duval County Health Department via email at CHD16_DCHD_Contact@flhealth.gov or by phone at 904-253-1850. The department’s attorneys will investigate, and law enforcement would be called if needed. 

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry issued an executive order in March saying employers must allow their employees to work from home if possible. 

If employees can work from home but an employer isn’t letting them, you can call 904-630-CITY. Curry says if an employer isn’t complying, the business could face condemnation, allowing the city to shut off its utilities. [Return To Questions List]

Q: What do I do if I suspect price gouging during the pandemic? 

A: State Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office says it’s prioritizing reports of price gouging on these items during the COVID-19 crisis: 

  • Protective masks, sanitizing and disinfecting supplies, such as hand sanitizer, gel, wipes, cleaning supplies for surface cleaning, including paper towels, and commercial cleaning supplies.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE), including gowns, booties, gloves and other protective gear.
  • COVID-19 test kits, swabs and related consumable medical supplies used in administering tests.

Anyone who wants to report suspected price gouging or scams can contact the Florida attorney general’s hotline at 1-866-966-7226 or file an online complaint here.

Kylie Mason with the Office of the Attorney General said investigators look at every case individually. 

“There is no exact quantification on the threshold,” Mason said in an email to WJCT News. “Our Consumer Protection Division reviews each allegation of price gouging on a case-by-case basis, taking into account not only the price charged, but other possible factors under the law such as any additional costs proven by the merchant.”

Violators of price gouging in Florida can receive fines from $1,000 to $25,000, depending on how many violations are found. [Return To Questions List]

Q: A traveler who returned to Jacksonville from Italy in the last two weeks now has a fever and a cough. What should he do?

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

[Return To Questions List]

Q: How long does COVID-19 stay on non-treated surfaces? 

A: The World Health Organization says coronaviruses can stay on surfaces for between a few hours and several days.

The type of surface, temperature and the humidity of the environment account for the time range. 

A study released on March 17 by the New England Journal of Medicine found the virus is detectable for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel.

The WHO recommends cleaning surfaces with a simple disinfectant to kill the virus, while Harvard Health Publishing points out frequent cleaning of household surfaces is needed because if an infected person coughs or sneezes, even a recently clean surface can become contaminated again. [Return To Questions List]

Q: Does Advil worsen the symptoms of COVID-19?

A: Advil is a brand name for ibuprofen, which is sold under various brands, also including Nurofen. Concern about using ibuprofen as a COVID-19 treatment took off after French officials warned that anti-inflammatory drugs could worsen the effects of the virus. Science Alert reported French Health Minister Olivier Veran issued the warning, citing a study in The Lancet medical journal

But the World Health Organization (WHO) wrote shortly thereafter on March 18 that “based on currently available information, WHO does not recommend against the use of ibuprofen.” WHO said it has been consulting with physicians treating COVID-19 patients and “are not aware of reports of any negative effects, beyond the usual ones that limit its use in certain populations.”

The European Medicines Agency also said while it is monitoring the situation, there’s “currently no scientific evidence establishing a link between ibuprofen and worsening of COVID-19.”

NPR reported on March 19 that Dr. Carlos del Rio, a professor of infectious diseases and global health at Emory University's Department of Medicine, agrees with the European Medicines  Agency’s assessment. "I think the minister of health of France is wrong [in] prohibiting the use of ibuprofen based on limited data," del Rio said. [Return To Questions List]

Questions 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.