FL National Guard delays arrival to Charlotte County for COVID-19 testing

Posted at 9:07 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 21:07:28-04

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, FL. — A Florida National Guard strike team was set to arrive in Charlotte County to begin COVID-19 testing this week but has now been reassigned to another community.

The strike team was set to arrive Monday, but now the team's arrival date is pending.

"The National Guard is responding to a mission request made by the local Department of Health Office in coordination with our Emergency Management Office, and the local nursing homes," said Brian Gleason.

Gleason is the communications manager for Charlotte County.

Gleason says the purpose of the Florida National Guard's arrival is to facilitate testing in nursing homes where the county has had clusters of cases among patients and staff.

"As of now, we've identified five facilities where we want to get ahead of the testing and make sure we address those situations and stop the spread," said Gleason.

All five facilities are on Florida's newly released list of facilities with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state.

Douglas Jacobson State Veterans Nursing Home in Port Charlotte will be the strike team's first stop for testing.

"Right now, there are no residents who have COVID-19 at that particular facility," said Steve Murray.

Murray is a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs and the Douglas Jacobson State Veterans Nursing Home.

Murray says two staff members have pending COVID-19 results.

"In the case of one, her husband tested positive and out of an abundance of caution we, of course, asked her to self-isolate," said Murray.

That staff member did test positive and is waiting for the results of a second test.

Gleason says the strike team is also set to test residents and staff members at Harbour Health Center, Port Charlotte Rehabilitation Center, Signature Healthcare of Port Charlotte, and South Port Square Senior Living Facility.

"The lag time between testing and when results come in varies between the provider that is doing the testing. With the national guard, we'll be able to get the testing results early," said Gleason.

Gleason says the test results would take 2 to 3 days.

As of Sunday, the Florida Department of Health confirms there are 1,785 COVID-19 cases and 175 deaths among staff and residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities across Florida.

"When they do deploy, they're obviously National Guardsmen, so they're in National Guard Uniform and riding National Guard Vehicles, so we don't want people to be alarmed at the presence of guard troops," said Gleason.

While there is no timeline for the FL National Guard's arrival, The Department of Health in Charlotte County will continue to perform testing for long-term senior care facilities.