Beginning Monday, Oct. 5, Escambia County CARES Act funds will be used by Community Health Northwest Florida and Ascension Sacred Heart to offer rapid COVID-19 testing to Escambia County residents.
In late August, the County Commission approved allocating CARES funding to create a rapid testing partnership that would allow for tests to be administered by Ascension Sacred Heart and Community Health Northwest Florida. CARES funds will support the purchase of Abbott ID NOW Rapid COVID-19 test kits and human resources to offer rapid testing five days per week at drive-through locations in Escambia County.
“On behalf of the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners, we are extremely pleased to announce rapid COVID-19 testing for residents,” said Chairman and District 5 County Commissioner Steven Barry. “The board approved CARES Act funding in the amount of $1.25 million for our partnership with Ascension Sacred Heart and Community Health Northwest Florida to make this important resource available for residents to receive COVID-19 test results quickly. We hope this will assist in slowing community spread of COVID-19, and we would like to remind residents to continue to Mask Up, Escambia.”
The Abbott test is a molecular nasal swab that detects COVID-19 in 15 minutes or less. It is a widely used point-of-care test to allow quick diagnosis so that new COVID-19 cases can be quickly identified and isolated to slow the spread of the disease.
Initially, rapid COVID-19 testing will be available by appointment only to Escambia County residents who are experiencing active COVID-19 symptoms. All patients are required to be pre-screened by calling the Ascension Sacred Heart COVID-19 Call Center at 850-746-2684. A phone pre-screen is required to obtain access to rapid testing at the drive-through test center. Call Center personnel will schedule appointments at the most convenient testing site for the patient.
Rapid COVID-19 testing is open to Escambia County residents who meet the pre-screening criteria, both adults and children three months of age and older. Testing is provided at no cost to patients. For those persons not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, drive through COVID-19 testing is available at several locations in Escambia County.
“Hurricane Sally delayed the start of the Rapid Testing program by two weeks, but we are very thankful to the County Commission for earmarking part of the CARES Act funding to provide this vital testing," said Chandra Smiley, CEO of Community Health Northwest Florida. "We are also grateful to Ascension Sacred Heart for their support in this significant partnership. Rapid testing will allow us to quickly identify positive cases, isolate them and help slow the rate of new infections in our community.”
Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart has been the community's leader in COVID-19 testing since it launched the area's first testing center on March 16. Since then, Ascension Sacred Heart has tested more than 35,000 people for the virus.