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This is a test: Finding Covid-19 exam sites in Naples takes some sleuthing

Harriet Howard Heithaus
Naples Daily News

COVID-19 virus testing in Collier County has been a moving target since March.

Sites at places such as North Collier Park, Nichols Health Care Center and Veterans Community Park on Marco Island were temporary. NCH Healthcare System, a familiar test site, ended its testing June 25, and refers people to their personal physicians.

But physicians choose whether to offer the test or whether to refer people to a regional testing site.

Kristofer Sosa of Naples provides a sample for a COVID-19 test administered by Kat Lucchesi, a CMA with Advance Medical, Friday morning, July 24, 2020, at a parking lot near the Advance Medical Urgent Care Center in Naples

To add to that, some of those tests may be rapid antigen tests, considered highly accurate, but not quite to the extent of antigen PCR tests, which detect the virus’s genetic material. The latter are required by some countries for admission.

And finally, some places offered testing for all ages, and others limited tests to those 18 and older.

In the last month, available testing sites seem to have stabilized in Collier County. Those with same-day needs can get tested for $150; those who are willing to test and quarantine themselves while they wait for a result can get them free or, for a shorter wait, with a fee. This directory for Collier and south Lee counties: 

Collier County Department of Health

The Collier County Dept. of Health offers five locations where testing for both high-priority individuals and those without referrals is offered. Things to know:

  • High-priority testing — testing for people with symptoms —  is by appointment only at all locations. Call Mondays-Fridays, 239-252-6220.
  • Testing is open to all ages except at the Centurylink Sports Complex. Individuals younger than 18 must be accompanied by an adult who can sign a consent form for them. 
  • Hours and days of the week can change. It's helpful to check the department's website: collier.floridahealth.gov
  • Test results may not be available for a week and will be released both through a mobile app and by phone for Department of Health sites. 
  • All tests are free. If you have an insurance or Medicare card, it's a good idea to bring it with you, however.
  • These are PCR-level tests.

"We do provide water," said Kristine Hollingsworth, public information officer for the Florida Department of Health in Collier County. "But all our testing is done outdoors, so an umbrella for sun protection is a good idea." Those who have lightweight portable chairs may want to bring them to ease the wait in lines to the walk-up sites, she said.

She also asked people to be aware that tests cannot be administered in rainy or excessively windy conditions and sites may have to close. 

Hollingsworth said Collier is one of the rare counties that can test for all ages because it has pediatric-size nasal swabs for infants and toddlers.

Health Department offices at Collier Government Center: 3339 U.S. 41 E.: Naples. High-priority tests 9 a.m.-3 pm. Mondays-Fridays. Non-priority testing, call 239-252-8230 9 a.m.-4 p.m.Tuesdays only for appointments here  9 a.m.-3 p.m. drive-through Thursdays. This is a drive-through site. 

419 N. First S., Immokalee:  Adjacent to Immokalee Community Park. High-priority 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays. Walk-up testing 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays with additional hours noted on the website. Some waiting outdoors; bring sun protection. Stormy weather may close the site.

A member of the Florida National Guard takes samples from an Immokalee resident, Sunday, May, 3, 2020, at a COVID-19 testing site at the Collier County Health Department in Immokalee.

Immokalee Fellowship Church: 1411 Lake Trafford Road, Immokalee. Walk-up testing,  3-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Some waiting outdoors is involved; bring sun protection. Stormy weather may close the site.

Golden Gate Community Center: 4701 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples. Walk-up testing, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday, July 31.  (August dates, if added, may be posted later.) There's some waiting outdoors; bring sun protection. Stormy weather may close the site. 

Century Link Sports Complex: 14100 Ben C. Pratt/Six Mile Cypress Pkwy, Fort Myers.  Drive-through testing, ages 18 and older only, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Sundays. Collier County residents are accepted here through a partnership with Department of Emergency Management, Florida National Guard and the Florida Department of Health in both Lee and Collier counties.

The last car is admitted at 3 p.m. or when testing capacity reaches its limit. Stormy weather may close the site.

CVS/Minute Clinic

In Collier County, tests offered by CVS Pharmacies and their Minute Clinics at three stores share these rules:

  • Tests, as of last Wednesday, required at least one symptom that could be associated with COVID-19 for eligibility. After a button identifying the applicant as having a symptom was unclicked, the applicant was disqualified.
  • Insurance or Medicare card, if you have one, and proof of identity are required. If you don't have insurance, that doesn't disqualify you. The test is then billed to a federal health grant program for testing.
  • As the website warns you, this is not a fast-results test. Results come between six and 10 days after the test via a mobile app you download, MyChart, or by phone.
  • These are PCR-level tests. 
  • You must make an appointment.

If your questionnaire qualifies you, inputting your zip code will offer locations within around 50 miles. On Tuesday, most of them were filled up 24 hours ahead, but would be open within 48 hours.

Make sure you know which CVS you're headed for: There are three on Immokalee Road alone. If you haven't fed your location into your GPS or maps app, you can end up in line at two wrong stores.

Collier County testing sites are here:

  • 5296 U.S. 41 N., Naples
  • 2375 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples
  • Both 8831 and 13400 Immokalee Road locations, Naples

Advance Medical

One company offers same-day results: the privately run Advance Medical, a  therapy, testing and drug screening service with a walk-in clinic in The Commons at 720 Goodlette-Frank Road, accessed via Seventh Avenue North.

It doesn't advertise coronavirus testing on its website. But the essentials are easy enough to pick up by calling its office at 239-566-7676. Lori Martell, practice administrator for the Advance Medical, said it uses the rapid antigen test and that its limit for same-day results is 175.

"We have four analyzers running and we can get results in 10 minutes, but it's keeping staff going," Martell said. Adance Medical also does tests directly for employers and institutions which keeps it close to capacity.

Vehicles line up at a rapid COVID-19 testing site early Friday morning, July 24, 2020, at a parking lot near the Advance Medical Urgent Care Center in Naples

Martell said Advance Medical uses the the rapid antigen test, which may not be acceptable in certain situations: Entry into the Bahamas, for example, requires a PCR test that detect the virus’s genetic material. Antigen tests detect specific proteins on the virus.

"The nice thing about this test is that it takes people out of work and return people to work right away," she said. "We have to be able to service people who care for others quickly."

Its essentials: 

  • Testing is drive-through
  • First come, first served testing begins at 6:30 a.m.  However, at 4 a.m. cars are already lined up at the company's 720 Goodlette-Frank Road parking lot. Those who have been tested suggest it's better to be there by 3:30. Pets and pillows are common companions among those in line.
  • $150 in cash is the price. The company's recorded message says it does not have the equipment to process credit cards outdoors. Nor will it take checks. Its message says it will not bill insurance, but those tested receive a receipt; they may be able to file a claim with that.
  • A photo ID is required.
  • The intake point is not at the building's entrance. It begins behind the building Advance Medical is in, so drivers should continue past its Seventh Avenue North entrance and follow the roundabout to reach the access drive to the rear of the building.
  •  Currently 175 tests are administered daily. When the Advance Medical reaches its maximum, it closes the line, generally around 5 a.m. Its Facebook page offers a real-time announcement when the limit is reached.
  • Those tested will be notified by the end of the business day. Advance Medical has a secured app, but Martell said it's easier to for people to receive test results by phone or email.
  • Test age lower limit is 2 years.
  • These are rapid antigen tests, not PCR level. 
Advance Medical Certified medical assistant Kat Lucchesi, center, takes samples from community members at a rapid COVID-19 testing site, Friday morning, July 24, 2020, at a parking lot near the Advance Medical Urgent Care Center in Naples

Millennium Physician Group

Doctors affiliated with Millennium Physician Group have the option of offering the tests themselves or referring patients to their own walk-in clinics.

The clinics will work with insurance companies, which means tests will be free or at nominal charge. Individuals with no insurance also can come to the clinics, but the test charge is $100. 

Liza Fernandez, marketing and communications director for Millennium, said the tests administered at its clinics may be either rapid antigen or PCR tests, depending on the needs of the patient. Currently, they have a results time of 48 hours, but that can change, she warned. 

Most of all, Fernandez said, the public shouldn't take testing lightly: "Taking one of these tests out of curiosity really isn't the best use of it, considering the possibility of shortages and the needs for people with symptoms," she said.

Grace Place

Grace Place has partnered with Lab 24 from Boca Raton, FL to offer testing 8  a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays at it 4300 21st Ave. SW, Naples, campus.

The center takes both drive-through and walk-up customers, no appointments required, and all tests are done outdoors, so sun protection is a good idea. Those interested should also be aware, with Tropical Storm Isaias coming, that weather, including high winds, can cancel testing.

Photo ID is required and those who have insurance are asked to bring their cards. There's no charge to the person being tested. 

Notification on the results of these PCR-level tests can usually be expected in eight days. 

Harriet Howard Heithaus writes for the Naples Daily News/naplesnews.com. Reach her at 239-213-6091.

The CVS do-it-yourself test

The drive-through tests through CVS/Minute Clinic pharmacies are self-administered, and this writer took one before embarking on a four-state trip to visit family. Here's what she learned: 

Arrive early. Tests are scheduled in 15-minute increments, and they are dispensed from the same window at which prescriptions are filled, so things can slow down to a 15-minute wait.

 Allow five minutes for the test. Pharmacy employees at the drive-through window read the instructions to you. Pay attention to them rather than the contents of paper bag that will be slid out to you after your ID and insurance card are checked. 

You're getting several plastic bags containing a sheet of instructions, two sheets of disinfectant wipes, a vial of sanitary transport liquid and a baggy of four cotton swabs. The pharmacy instructions will make you efficient in picking out the right material at the right time.

You'll only use one swab. Further, you'll only use one end of it, and for both nostrils. A difficult part for body-sensitive people is inserting that swab at least 1 inch into each nostril, and then rotating it for 15 seconds. The procedure must be repeated with the other nostril, using the same end of the same swab. 

The trickiest part is prying off the plastic stopper. You need to open the vial of liquid your swab is being transported to the lab in and insert it cleanly. The terror of dropping the swab or spilling the liquid and having to start over looms large.

Finally, the disinfectant wipes. Once you've successfully plunked the swab into the liquid, resealed the vial and enclosed it in its identifier bag, you'll be asked to pull up to a collection container. You must wipe the door clean, drop in the bagged vial and wipe the door clean again. 

— Harriet Howard Heithaus