COVID-19 testing on Marco Island: Hundreds show up at Veterans Community Park

Lance Shearer

Are folks on Marco Island concerned about the coronavirus? The line of cars at Veterans Community Park on Saturday morning said yes.

The City of Marco Island joined together with Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida to offer COVID-19 testing Saturday, on a first-come, first-served basis, with no cost to those being tested and no referral from a physician required.

By the time the testing started, a long double line of cars stretched around the park, wound past McDonald’s and spilled out onto Collier Blvd.

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Al and Andrea Fairbanks showed up at 5:30 a.m. to be first in line for the testing, scheduled to start at 9 o’clock. They said they were not experiencing any symptoms, but had had a visit from their kids, and just wanted to be extra careful. This was drive-up testing, so those in line for the procedure had to remain in their cars.

There was plenty of foot traffic, however. Marco Islanders can be counted on to show up in significant numbers to assist with any civic endeavor, and Saturday was no exception. Volunteers swarmed the Veterans Park parking lot. Over a dozen Rotarians, conspicuous in their bright green “Rotarian at work” t-shirts, worked along with equal numbers of police officers and firefighters to assist with logistics, and keep the process running smoothly.

Neil Snyder helped Julie Pedretti of Healthcare Network hand out assignments. Fire chief Mike Murphy worked with MIPD Sgts. Mark Haueter and Ryan Montgomery, and Samantha Malloy of the Parks & Rec. Department, while Chris Byrne, the city’s emergency management coordinator was the city’s point person for interfacing with Healthcare Network.

“The response from the city, and the Rotary clubs, was outstanding,” said Trey Fletcher, VP and general counsel for Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida. “They went above and beyond and did a lot of the heavy lifting.”

Before the event, Healthcare Network had committed to providing 250 test kits. They ended up testing over 375 people, and still ran out before being able to accommodate those last in line. Anyone not able to receive a test on Saturday was given a sheet showing times and locations for additional testing.

These sites will include the Golden Gate Community Center this Friday, and the Healthcare Network building on Collier Blvd. in Golden Gate on Saturday, said Fletcher. For more information, visit or call 239-658-3000.

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The tests provided were nasal swabs, but according to Fletcher, are less intrusive than the long swabs used previously, more like a Q-tip. They hope to have results in 3-5 working days, but he cautioned that with the upsurge in testing, and in coronavirus cases overall in Florida, it is impossible to pin down the turnaround time. Those with positive results, he said, will be contacted by telephone.

On Sunday, Florida reported the highest number of new COVID cases in any state since the beginning of the pandemic, over 15,000 in one day, surpassing New York’s previous record of 12,274.