University of Florida Health has released numbers from its COVID-19 testing site at The Villages Polo Fields last week – one that originally billed itself as exclusive to residents of the mega-retirement community.
Volunteers from UF Health, working in conjunction with employees of the Developer-owned Villages Health, claim to have tested 2,280 people at the site. They reported that of the 900 people who were showing symptoms, 23 tested positive. It’s unclear if those patients are among the numbers released on a daily basis by the Florida Department of Health – numbers that topped 40 on Tuesday and steadily have been on the rise over the past week.
UF Health also reported that another 1,400 tests were conducted on people who weren’t showing any symptoms. Of those, two tested positive this past Friday. Both had traveled recently and didn’t develop symptoms until after they were tested, UF Health said.
Those who participated in the testing at the polo fields were required to register online to secure a slot. They were asked to fill out a series of questions to determine which arm of testing they would be “eligible” for. After doing so, they were directed to the appropriate page to sign up for an appointment.
The process frustrated some Villagers who struggled to get an appointment. Priscilla Maday, of the Village of Briar Meadow South, said she drove to the testing site on the first day last Monday and was sent home to secure an appointment online. She said she initially received a message that no time slots were available, then got up early Tuesday morning to register. After being told to select a different time slot, she was told none were available, she wrote in a Letter to the Editor to Villages-News.com.
The drive-through testing site originally was promoted by UF Health as being restricted to Villagers. The thousands of other seniors who live in surrounding retirement communities like Del Webb Spruce Creek, Water Oak, Spruce Creek South and Stonecrest – to name a few – initially weren’t going to be welcome at the site, even though they are among the most vulnerable to the virus.
That tune suddenly changed on the first day of testing when Gov. Ron DeSantis stopped by the polo fields. He made it quite clear during a press conference that those who live outside the walls of the sprawling retirement community were welcome to seek appointments for the testing. UF Health also removed the “Villagers only” requirement from its online form, though it still encouraged participation via golf cart.