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Lee Health expanding COVID-19 testing as appointments fill up across the county

Posted at 7:53 PM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 19:53:31-04

LEE COUNTY — COVID-19 cases continue to break records in Lee County, and testing is getting harder to find.

On Monday — Lee Health announced it would be expanding services to try to meet the demand. It’s a responsibility the state was able to handle until it started closing sites a couple months ago.

Back on May 28th, the mass-testing site at Centurylink Sports Complex shut down. At the time, the Florida Department of Emergency Management said it was no longer needed because of a decrease in demand.

But now, Sam Patel at Carrell Pharmacy says that demand is higher than ever.

"We’ve been getting bombarded with the calls for testing, and we just direct them to the CVS, Walgreens, Walmart. Big box stores," said Patel, whose pharmacy doesn't even offer testing.

The problem is, the appointments at those big box stores are all booked up in Lee County.

We checked CVS’s website on Monday and couldn't find a single appointment at any store. At Walgreens, the nearest store with an open slot was in Miami.

"It’s very hard to find the same day appointment, or even a next day appointment, because of the limitation of testing facilities and the tests available out there," said Patel.

When people have a hard time finding testing, they may not know if they’re positive. Dr. Thomas Unnasch at the University of South Florida says, that means they may not quarantine and can continue to spread COVID-19.

"Cutting back on the testing is just one way of blinding yourself to what the real situation is, and if you’re blind, obviously it’s going to be really hard to effectively counteract what’s going on," said Dr. Unnasch.

With Lee Health continuing to break records for the number of COVID-19 patients it’s treating, it says it’s trying to meet the need.

"Yesterday we did 469 tests. We will be opening two additional curative locations, and at Page Field, we will be offering a drive-up testing site," said Dr. Armando Llechu, Lee Health Chief Officer of Hospital Operations.

Lee Health said Page Field should have that drive-up testing by next week, but until then, Patel is telling his patients to try to order the tests themselves.

"It’s not a bad idea to keep one or two tests at home so you can use it in emergency," said Patel.

At Fox 4 we’ve created a list of all the sites in town offering COVID-19 testing right now.

You can find it by clicking here.