COVID testing site opens at Beaches

  • Mayor Ellen Glasser, Mayor Charlie Latham and Mayor Elaine Brown at the staged site for COVID testing at the Beaches. Testing hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. (photo submitted)
    Mayor Ellen Glasser, Mayor Charlie Latham and Mayor Elaine Brown at the staged site for COVID testing at the Beaches. Testing hours are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. (photo submitted)

A new COVID testing site has been staged in the former Kmart shopping center in Neptune Beach. The mayors of the three Beaches cities announced recently that the location will offer screening for the virus as well as antibodies Thursday through Saturday in the old Anytime Fitness location at 540 Atlantic Blvd.
“This site will offer both viral testing via the swab, either the nasal or the oral type, as well as blood testing for antibodies. While you’re here in the facilities, we ask that you always wear a mask and practice good social distancing guidelines,” said Dr. Matt Rill of Telescope Health, which will oversee the operation of the indoor testing facility.
“We do have to take extra precautions. We’re not working out of the car,” Rill said. “We have social distancing guidelines built in so people are always six feet apart. We will try and control the situation so that you’re never too close in contact.”
Elderly and medically vulnerable residents will be given priority between 7 and 8 a.m. The site is able to screen about 100 people per day, with the ability to increase beyond that if needed. Telescope Health operates two of Jacksonville’s six testing sites. During the first day at the new testing location at the Arlington site located at Ed Austin Park, 125 people were tested with an average 13-minute wait time between screenings.
A text feature will allow patients to check in through the app if there is a line and wait in their vehicle until they are called.
“We’ve tried to make this as easy as possible. We ask that all residents take advantage of this free service in the community whether you have symptoms or not to protect both you and the community around you,” said Rill.
“Widespread testing is going to do a lot of positive things. It does help us with understanding the prevalence of coronavirus in this community. Unfortunately, there is a fair number of folks that are asymptomatic and contagious. They may be walking around the community and spreading it without knowing it. Having the testing center in place and ease of access will help us catch those folks to let them know they are positive and stay at home.”
Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, myalgia or body aches, loss of taste or smell, congestion, or sore throat. To be tested, individuals must be a Duval county resident or city of Jacksonville employee. Information about symptoms and testing is available at www.telescopehealth.com.
“We are proud that we’ve got this indoor site so it won’t be affected by the weather. TLM Realty that owns the shopping center has graciously given us the opportunity to have it here. We also have the cooperation of the three Beaches. All three chiefs of police are cooperating to make sure the traffic is held down,” said Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown, who helped spearhead the campaign to bring testing to the Beaches.
Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser commended Brown for her efforts and called the opening of the testing site “an example of inter-governmental coordination.”
“Mayor Brown has been beating the drum for getting a testing site out here at the beach for several months now. As our COVID numbers are rising, the demand for this is even greater so it’s really a service to the people at the Beaches,” she said. “Throughout this crisis the three Beach cities have worked together with the city of Jacksonville. For all of us, this is really personal.”
Since the health crisis began, Glasser said she has learned of various scenarios involving residents who were unable to travel for testing in Jacksonville.
“I’ve been getting phone calls for several months now from people saying ‘I can’t get to this testing site. It’s difficult for me, I don’t have transportation or I have an elderly mother.' For us, we work with our residents to help them and this is going to make that job so much easier,” she said.
“The message needs to continue to be recited is to continue to thank our health care workers for being on the front line along with our first responders and city employees as we all deal with this crisis together. None of us are immune to this virus. It’s going to be a journey for us to get through it. People need to take personal responsibility. They need to wear masks. We’re going to make it as easy as possible to get tested here at the Beach.”
Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham said since the start of the pandemic, there has been an unparalleled cooperation between the Beaches cities and the city of Jacksonville.
“This is a great example of working together to make something happen,” he said. “Hats off to Mayor Brown, she is really the driving force.”
Telescope Health continues to work with the city of Jacksonville to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“This is our first offering at the Beaches,” said Rill. “We want to bring testing closer to the neighborhoods. Unfortunately, we are seeing a rise in coronavirus in our area and I think the safest way to return to a new normal is widespread testing, as well as following CDC guidelines.”
Said Brown, “It’s been a long time coming [and] it’s going to be here for a while.”
The Beaches testing hours are Thursday through Saturday from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.

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