Clinical and research testing also took place in Jacksonville, focused on residents of the region who are at risk of being disproportionately affected by the health emergency.
Initial efforts involved a team of up to 50 volunteer UF Health medical professionals who were expected to evaluate up to 2,000 people in the first two weeks. To be eligible, residents needed to be over the age of 65 or have a UF Health Jacksonville primary care physician.
This effort also involved a research aspect, allowing asymptomatic people to receive testing using a UF Health-developed assay not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Walk-up or drive-thru and community-based screening took place at several locations, bringing testing close to where people live. Testing was focused on areas at risk of being disproportionately affected by the pandemic because of poor access to health care and socioeconomic inequities.
“The heart and soul of an academic health center like UF Health is a commitment to educate and serve under-resourced members of the community, especially in times of crisis,” said Leon L. Haley, Jr., M.D., CEO of UF Health Jacksonville, vice president for health affairs and dean of the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville.
In early April, UF Health made coronavirus testing available to asymptomatic first responders and emergency room personnel as part of a research protocol.
“As the world around them self-isolates to avoid exposure to the coronavirus, these dedicated public servants and medical employees are coming to work each day and doing their best to protect their community,” said Joseph A. Tyndall, M.D., M.P.H., the interim dean of the UF College of Medicine. “It’s important for us to do everything we can to support them in this time of crisis.”
UF Health leaders say they recognize the need to assist personnel who find themselves especially at risk in the ongoing pandemic.
“Our emergency room staffers and all those caring for COVID-19 patients at UF Health are bravely stepping up in this uncertain environment, recognizing the danger of the coronavirus, yet ready to stand at their post to ensure the job of caring for those in need is done with their typical excellence,” said UF Health Shands CEO Ed Jimenez. “Employees in every department of UF Health Shands are ably filling vital roles every hour of the day, and they are the beating heart of our health system.”
In late May, UF Health expanded the testing to include all 2,500 city of Gainesville employees, making voluntary testing available to any worker concerned they might have been exposed to the virus.
Gainesville City Manager Lee R. Feldman thanked UF Health for its work, referring to the city’s employees as “community builders.”
“The city of Gainesville is appreciative of UF Health’s efforts to include all of our community builders in its coronavirus testing program,” he said. “UF Health has been a tremendous partner and resource during the pandemic, and this program will enable the city to continue to provide all of our essential services to our neighbors.”