By Peter D'Oench

HIALEAH(CBSMIAMI) —- The Larkin Community Hospital in Hialeah has opened a new daily testing site for those who qualify to be tested for the coronavirus.

It was open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.

The drive-through site could eventually have as many as 2,000 test kits and patients are urged to register online.

CBS4’s Peter D’Oench spoke with one of the first persons to be tested at the site. He interviewed her from a distance as she told him, “I am feeling better now. I have been sick for a while. That’s why my commander told me to get tested. I think this testing is a good idea so you don’t spread this around anymore. I want people to be safe and stay at home and try not to get in contact with people who are sick so they don’t spread the disease more.”

Dr. Jack Michel, the Chairman of the Board at the hospital, said “Hopefully this will alleviate the fears of the community whether they have the disease or not. There is strict criteria for the testing. We start first with first responders and medical personnel. We are only going to test people who have symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms you will not be given a test. And some of the symptoms are fever and everything associated with a viral infection.”

Once they start testing the public, patients must be symptomatic and must complete an online application. Click here for application.

Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez said, “If we can all think that we have the virus and we don’t want to spread to the virus, this is how this should be treated.”

Dr. Michel has optimism.

“There may not be a cure right now,” he said. “But there’s definitely treatment and a lot of experience with people all over the world trying to see if this disease can be treated.”

Vanessa Silebi, an infectious diseases specialist, cited a series of different drugs that authorities were looking at to deal with COVID-19.

“For now out best advice is to practice social distancing and stay at home and avoid as much social interaction as you can,” she said.

In Pembroke Pines, members of the National Guard, along with medical staff from Memorial Hospital, are at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines collecting samples for COVID-19 testing.

This testing site will open from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. on a daily basis.

On Friday morning, Dr. Jennifer Goldman, the Medical Director for Primary Care at the Memorial Health Care system said 200 people were tested for the coronavirus and most experienced about a 2 1/2 hour wait.

The test will be provided only to those who are exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19. They will primarily be testing first responders, people aged 65 or older with COVID-19 symptoms and individuals who are symptomatic and have traveled. If a person does not meet the criteria, they would be asked to exit.

Goldman reiterated, “All first responders with symptoms, anyone 65 and older with symptoms and chronic conditions as well as anyone with symptoms who recently traveled internationally, by air or by boat to any geographic area of the pandemic,” she said.

She said this follows guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. She said people could expect to receive the results of their tests within 3 days.

People who meet the criteria and need to be tested should enter the park at the Flamingo Road and Johnson Street entrance. Initially, it was recommended that those wanting to be tested have enough fuel for an expected delay of up to 2 hours. Nurses, wearing personal protective equipment, will screen through prospective patients. If the person meets the above criteria, the nurse will provide a placard in the windshield for the patient to continue to the testing tents.

Once the patient arrives at the testing area, a medic wearing a Tyvek suit will collect a sample with the swab of the nostril. Another service member will be responsible for scribing the information from the patient’s placard to the bio-hazard bag, and another will be responsible for collecting the sample and placing it in the bag.

After the sample is in the bio-hazard bag, it will be refrigerated until it is shipped to a lab for examination. Within three to four days, Memorial Healthcare System will notify patients of the results.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis visited the site on Thursday afternoon and said he hopes the site will be a game-changer for how the state tests for the illness.

“People are kind of flying blind because there haven’t been enough tests done,” DeSantis said. “We’re gonna try to change that.”

DeSantis said it’s been a challenge to get enough materials to test people and when people do get tested it’s a long wait for results. He believes this operation could be an antidote and, if successful, could be replicated elsewhere in Florida. DeSantis said testing here will initially focus on two groups of people.

“Those who are health care workers because if they test positive that could sideline a lot of people that they’re working with,” he explained. “The other group will be those senior citizens, 65 and older who are symptomatic of having coronavirus.”

When DeSantis was asked about his decision to not order the closure of beaches statewide, even after pictures showed spring breakers congregating in large numbers, he said it’s important for people to get outside and get fresh air but to stay away from larger groups. For now, he and his team are focusing on social distancing and strong messaging.

“I think that’s a more prudent approach — to do social distancing,” DeSantis said.

“There will be another spring break when this is over,” said Jared Moskowitz, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director. “The beach will be there.”

DeSantis also said he asked the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, which is on tribal land, to shut bars and restaurants. He said they agreed to do so.

On Friday, DeSantis issued an executive for Broward and Palm beach that mirrors Miami-Dade’s effort to close non-essential businesses, beaches, and parks. Broward Mayor Dale Holness said he believes the community needs clarity on the issue and that larger businesses should probably close for the time being.

“If it is a business that has a large number of people that are congregating, that could transmit the virus, yes,” he said.

DeSantis said South Florida is where the bulk of the coronavirus cases are and significant steps must be taken.

“Broward County right now is the epicenter of what we’re seeing,” he said. “We need to be here for our friends in Broward and turn the tide on this thi

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Peter D'Oench

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