MIRAMAR, Fla. – Florida National Guard (FLNG) Soldiers and Airmen are helping set up and conduct drive-through coronavirus testing in South Florida where the COVID-19 virus is concentrated.
The testing facility in Broward County will allow those who meet the Center for Disease Control’s criteria to provide a specimen within their vehicle for testing. Guard members will take swabs and ship them to a lab, which will send results to the Florida Department of Health.
“[The test] will allow citizens to see if they have this virus so we can quarantine them,” said Col. Roy Bassett, the state surgeon with the FLNG. “We can let them know they should quarantine themselves to protect their families and to protect their community.”
Broward County had 39 of Florida’s 160 cases, according to the Florida Department of Health. Gov. Ron DeSantis is ensuring Florida residents have access to free testing to help prevent the COVID-19 virus from spreading.
“The greater picture is the epidemiology situation,” said Bassett. “We are doing things to get in front of this virus, so we can lower the curve and protect people.”
The drive-through testing will duplicate similar processes in other states like California and New York. There will be lanes for cars to enter, and trained combat medics in the Guard will collect samples.
“We have qualified [service members] to get the mission done, so it just makes sense,” said Staff. Sgt. Patrick Salas, with the FLNG’s 54th Security Force Assistance Brigade. “A lot of [members] are in the medical industry on the civilian side, so they are just great resources.”
Guard members will take precautions to prevent the virus from spreading into the FLNG’s operation.
“We screen [Guard members] before they get here and before they start their duty,” said Bassett. “We screen them to makes sure we are not bringing the virus into our unit. We are also training [members] to protect themselves: basic handwashing, hand cleansing and personal care.”
The drive-through operation is a multiagency effort and includes local law enforcement, hospitals, park managers and various state agencies.
“It takes a whole team,” said Bassett. “It takes all of us to get in front of this pandemic. It’s a big operation.”