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COVID testing in the county ramps up

Tim Croft

Testing for COVID-19 has been central to the national discussion about the ongoing pandemic and the state and county health providers are joining the push to increase testing.

The Florida Department of Health has undertaken a project to increase testing for the novel coronavirus while federal dollars were disbursed last week to aid private healthcare providers increase testing.

The FDOH launched what it is calling the May2Day project which carries the goal of testing at least 2 percent of each county’s population for COVID-19 each month to align with the re-opening phases recently announced by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In Gulf County that goal is 325 tests per month.

The Florida Department of Health in Gulf County came close during its recent kickoff drive, testing 310 individuals, including 130 in Wewahitchka over the weekend.

“We want to see our test numbers continue to increase and our positivity-percentage remain low,” said Sarah Hinds, executive director of the FDOH-Gulf.

“We’ve only had one case so far in Gulf County,” Hinds continued. “Our local leadership, city and county, have played a tremendous role in helping to eliminate exposure in our community, more than they realize.”

The health department will also work with community partners to expand testing to meet monthly targets, according to a release from the FDOH-Gulf.

In addition to action from the state level, two local health providers also received funding to increase testing.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, announced almost $30 million in funding for coronavirus testing in Florida.

That includes $440,059 to North Florida Medical Centers, Inc., parent company of the Wewahitchka Medical Center.

In addition, PanCare out of Panama City, which operates a clinic in Port St. Joe at the health department facility, received over $735,000 to bolster COVID-19 testing.

“As our state looks forward to reopening its economy, it is critical that we increase our testing capacity,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida).

“These federal funds will help Florida health centers continue to identify patients with COVID-19 so we can continue to slow the spread of the disease.”

The testing dollars follow funding last month that flowed through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Supplemental Funding to both North Florida Medical Centers and PanCare for the coronavirus fight.

Both companies received grants exceeding $1 million.