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The Villages
Monday, December 5, 2022

Confusion reigns over UF Health COVID-19 testing site at polo fields

Confusion continued to linger Friday as Villagers still had unanswered questions – and nowhere to get answers – about the now-shuttered Coronavirus testing site at the polo fields.

UF Health announced Wednesday afternoon on its COVID-19 webpage – https://ufhealthcovid.com/unavailable/ – that scheduling for the site was no longer available. It said it would re-open when additional supplies, such as testing kits and personal protective equipment, became available.

The UF Health COVID-19 testing site at The Villages Polo Fields remained dormant on Friday morning.

But the following day, Villagers apparently were tested at the site, which in large part was set up to collect research data on asymptomatic patients. In fact, the site, which opened March 23, tested 2,280 people that week, with almost 1,400 of tests being done on patients showing no symptoms. Of those, two tested positive for the virus.

That same week, only about 900 tests were conducted on area residents – the site originally was billed by UF Health as being strictly for Villagers – who were showing symptoms and were lucky enough to secure time slots. Of those, 23 tested positive for the virus.

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.

Many Villagers – most scared and quite concerned about the possibility of having the COVID-19 virus – complained about constantly trying to get appointments, only to be told none were available time and time again. Village of Briar Meadow South resident Priscilla Maday described the process as “discouraging.” Villager Beatrice Verbois struggled mightily for two weeks in failed efforts to get appointments for her and her 84-year-old husband. Villager Carol Lynch, showing obvious symptoms, desperately sought a time slot but her daughter said she couldn’t get in before she succumbed to the virus at UF Health The Villages Hospital.

Part of the confusion also has surrounded the actual tests that were administered by UF Health at the site. They were identified as being provided by the University of Florida Infectious Disease Lab and hadn’t yet received FDA approval. When UF Health reported conducting 2,280 tests after the first week, it was obvious those numbers weren’t included in the daily state-released statistics for Sumter County, because the total number of tests already conducted there is much lower. In fact, as of Friday morning, statistics show that only 1,079 tests have been conducted in Sumter County.

Villagers in golf carts were being tested for COVID-19 on March 23 at The Villages Polo Fields.

Another element of consternation has hinged on the fact that Villagers and other area residents aren’t sure if and when the site might reopen. The out-of-town-based healthcare organization’s webpage says only that potential openings will be announced 24-36 hours in advance via the Developer-owned newspaper’s website, Facebook page, Twitter account and mobile app.

That has left many Villagers in the dark about much-needed information and the webpage still doesn’t offer a contact phone number or email address for those desperately seeking information – a fact that even left a UF Health employee stymied earlier this week. Instead, it offers tips for people to use to reduce their exposure and chances of transmitting the virus.

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