The first healthcare provider in The Villages to offer testing for COVID-19 is still doing its part to check patients who are showing symptoms of the virus.
Dr. Cameron Frederick, a general practitioner at Premier Medical Associates in The Villages, said the testing site at 1580 Santa Barbara Blvd. near Freedom Pointe is still going strong. He said those seeking tests must first complete a tele-visit with a physician at the medical group to determine if it’s warranted, depending largely on the symptoms they’re experiencing.
Frederick said on Friday alone he participated in more than 20 tele-visits. Some of those were for patients seeking tests and others were for follow-up visits with patients to see how they were doing, he said.
“We have been doing testing all week,” he said late Friday afternoon.
Frederick estimated that Premier Medical Associates has conducted about 300 tests between its facilities in The Villages, Ocala, Kissimmee and Orlando. Not surprisingly, he said, the large majority of those have been conducted in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown, largely because seniors are among those most vulnerable to the potentially deadly virus.
Frederick encouraged local residents to do everything possible to protect themselves against the Coronavirus, such as staying at home, washing their hands often and practicing social distancing. He said it’s also a good idea for everyone to wear masks when they have to go places like grocery stores or pharmacies. For those who need it, he added, YouTube offers videos showing ways to make masks using materials as simple as old T-shirts.
Premier first started conducting Coronavirus tests on March 16 as the pandemic was sweeping across the nation. More than 15 people were swabbed on that first day of testing in The Villages, which was labeled as an “outburst” by Lina Cohen, vice president of patient care. She said results were expected in two to five days.
“We are doing everything we can to take care of our patients,” Cohen said at the time. “We are putting everything toward this and the sooner we test people, the better.”
Cohen said her agency, which has been a part of the community for 20 years, would continue to seek more testing kits, which were desperately needed.
“I’ve spent the day fighting with labs and I’ll keep fighting,” she said. “We need more swabs.”
Later in March, Cohen said Premier was testing 15-20 people – patients and non-patients – per day at the facility on Santa Barbara Boulevard and was in desperate need of swabs for continued testing. She said Premier has 15 facilities in highly populated senior areas and had fielded close to 2,200 calls from concerned patients.
Cohen even went so far as to make a video with an impassioned plea for help from the state and smaller labs that might have some of the testing swabs available.
“We need to test these people,” she said. “We need to make sure they’re healthy so we can conquer this virus.
“We are in this together,” she added. “This is about the whole country standing up together to help one another.”
On Friday, Frederick said Premier will continue to offer testing as long as they have the supplies to do so and/or as long as it’s needed, depending on what happens with the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who think they might need a Coronavirus test or who represent a medical organization with testing swabs available can call (352) 259-2159 or contact Cohen at [email protected]. They also can visit www.premiermedicalassociates.com.
The testing being done at Premier Medical Associates is much different than a site that was launched by UF Health on March 23 at The Villages Polo Fields. That effort, which currently is closed because of a lack of testing supplies, concentrated its efforts more on asymptomatic residents for research purposes.
The out-of-town-based healthcare provider did test 900 people who were showing symptoms, but close to 1,400 were conducted on those who were not. Twenty-five area residents tested positive during that week but the site has created mass confusion and frustrations among residents who desperately wanted to be tested, including late Villager Carol Lynch, who died on April 2 at UF Health The Villages Hospital. Those tests also were identified at the time as non-FDA approved.