By Peter D'Oench

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The age to qualify for at-home coronavirus testing in Miami has been lowered under new guidelines issued Tuesday.

Under the program started last week, people had to be 65 years and older and showing symptoms to qualify.

CBS4’s Peter D’Oench has learned from Miami Fire Rescue Lt. Pete Sanchez that those 45 and older can now qualify for testing.

That said, patients have to be unable to get to the mobile sites like those at Marlins Park and Charles Hadley Park to receive the at-home testing.

The news comes just as CBS4 went on a ride along with Miami Fire Rescue.

Three firefighter-paramedics wearing distinctive personal protective equipment descended on a Little Havana apartment building where an elderly resident with symptoms had called the city’s hotline requesting a swab test for COVID-19.

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Sanchez said his call came in to the command center at Miami Police Department headquarters where 10 firefighter-paramedics man telephones between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

They receive as many as 2,000 calls a day. An average of 100 people who need tests are helped every day by six units. That number could increase with the lower minimum age.

The hot line number is (305) 960-5050.

“What we are doing is facilitating in this pandemic,” said Sanchez. “People are worried and people are concerned. We need to show them that the city cares about them and we are there for them. We are going to get that exam and make sure they are at ease and not reach the point where they are too ill and have to call 911. If they are negative they have peace of mind. If not, we will have to take the next step. It makes us feel good helping people in this way.”

Ileana Arriola lives at the same apartment building where the crew observed by CBS4 stopped at on Tuesday morning and was also tested last week when the program first started.

“This is a very good idea,” she told D’Oench. “I think I was one of the first persons in the building to get a test and get it done and thank God I was negative. This helps a lot with the seniors here. They are so isolated. We have to look at the positive and look at the survival rate, not just the deceased. People are panicked and they are afraid. We will get through this by keeping their distance.”

And she showed us what happened during her test.

“They take a little swab and a Q-tip and start to put it up your nose and up towards your head a little bit and it goes all the way up here. It doesn’t hurt. It just tickles. And then it comes out like this. It takes 5 seconds,” she said.

Sanchez said while firefighter-paramedics will take note of insurance information, no one will have to pay any money on the spot for a test.

He said people will get their test results within three days.

Sanchez said the testing would go on indefinitely.

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Peter D'Oench