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The Villages
Tuesday, January 31, 2023

UF Health pulls plug on Coronavirus testing site at Villages Polo Fields

UF Health has shut down its Coronavirus testing site in The Villages.

The healthcare organization that has a partnership with The Villages finally updated its web page on Wednesday afternoon after area residents had expressed immense frustration about failed efforts to get appointments at the polo fields testing site.

The UF Health testing site sat dormant Wednesday afternoon at The Villages Polo Fields, even though the healthcare organization’s website said no testing slots were available.

The effort, which sought out mostly asymptomatic residents for research purposes, first opened on March 23 and initially tested 2,280 people with test kits provided by the University of Florida’s Infectious Disease Lab. Those kits have yet to gain FDA approval.

One of those highly discouraged Villagers, 77-year-old Beatrice Verbois, said she had been trying to get testing slots for her and her 84-year-old husband for two weeks “beginning at 8 a.m. every morning.” On Wednesday, she thought she had been successful but soon found out that wasn’t the case.

“Will I ever get a time slot for my husband and myself?” she asked. “I am thoroughly frustrated.”

On Wednesday morning, UF Health’s webpage, https://ufhealthcovid.com/, was still having people go through the process of attempting to get appointments by filling out their symptoms and where they lived. Once they clicked a tab to proceed, a schedule page popped up for a brief second and then reverted to a page saying no time slots were available and encouraging them to call the person they wanted help from in setting up an appointment, even though no names or phone numbers were provided.

By Wednesday afternoon the UF Health page had been updated to include the word “unavailable” in its title and was telling those hoping to get tested that kits and supplies are limited “due to resource issues at the state and national levels.”

“The testing site will re-open when additional supplies such as safety/personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing kits become available,” the site says.

UF Health, which also owns the hospitals in The Villages and Leesburg, said openings at the test center would be announced “24-36 hours in advance” in by the Developer-owned Daily Sun via Twitter, the newspaper’s website and Facebook. Those desperately seeking appointments also were told to check out the newspaper’s apps via mobile devices.

UF Health finally updated its webpage on Wednesday to tell Villagers the testing site at the polo fields was shutting down. Many area residents have expressed frustrations over the past several days as they attempted to get appointments at the site with no luck.

But no specific instructions were included for those eventually hoping to secure appointments. It’s not known if they will have to start attempting to secure slots 24 or 36 hours in advance or how the process is going to work. But UF Health did encourage area residents to “in the meantime” continue practicing ways to reduce their exposure and for transmitting the virus by a list of tips that include everything from staying home to washing their hands for 20 seconds to wearing a mask in public.

“We look forward to returning to the field as soon as supplies become available,” the webpage says.

During its first week of testing, UF Health checked only 900 residents with symptoms versus almost 1,400 who were asymptomatic. At the end of the week, the out-of-town-based healthcare provider reported that 25 people – 23 showing symptoms and two who were not – tested positive for the virus. Those patients apparently aren’t included in the daily numbers released by the Florida Department of Health.

Since the site at the polo fields first openedit originally was billed as being strictly for Villagers – Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted it for conducting research on the characteristics of the virus in those showing no symptoms. But Many Villagers and other areas residents – those among the age group most susceptible to COVID-19 – have shown an immense interest in the clinical testing so they can find out if they are suffering from the virus.

That group included late Villager Carol Lynch, who according to her daughter unsuccessfully attempted to get an appointment at the polo fields site. She succumbed to the virus last Thursday at UF Health The Villages Hospital.

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