The Florida A&M University (FAMU) team has tested more than 100,000 people at the Bragg Memorial Stadium COVID-19 site since it began operations seven months ago.
“This is an impressive milestone in the service of our community. From the first day it opened, the Bragg Stadium COVID-19 testing site has been indispensable to the local response in combating the pandemic,” FAMU President Larry Robinson said this week. “We are glad to have hosted this operation. It symbolizes our desire to stand and fight with our community during these difficult times.”
Opened on April 25, the walkup site reached 100,000 people tested on Monday. During the latest spike in COVID-19 cases, the site has been conducting an average of more than 2,000 rapid tests per day.
“On Saturday, the site tested 2,300 people, pushing the total of those tested to more than 98,000. As of 3 p.m. Monday, staff had tested 1,900 and there were long lines of people waiting to be tested,” said Tanya Tatum, the director of FAMU Student Health Service and operations manager at the site. By 6 p.m., 2,687 people had been tested, pushing the running total to 101,013.
“The numbers are indicative that people are more knowledgeable, and people are traveling for the holidays and want to get tested before they leave,” Tatum said. “Also, we are seeing an increasing number of cases in the state. We can’t ignore that.”
At the site, the rapid COVID-19 antigen test sample is collected by a health care worker who will gently swab the inside of a patient’s nostrils. The Florida Division of Emergency Management oversees operations in partnership with FAMU, Bond Community Health Center and the Florida Department of Health-Leon County.
The site is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, unless closed due to inclement weather. The site will be closed for Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26. Testing is free and no physician referral or insurance is required. Appointments and walk-ups are accepted.
“I’m glad we are able to offer the service in a place where people can find it. We work hard to make this an accessible site,” Tatum said. “People are getting the information about the importance of being tested.”
The history of the site parallels the ebb and flow of the pandemic. During the first weeks, those tested sometimes had to wait a week or more for results. Now visitors to the site receive their rapid COVID-19 antigen results within one hour of testing by email or SMS text. The Florida Department of Health receives all patient results and contacts patients with positive results.
Long lines during the first days gave way to no waiting as the number of daily cases dropped early in the summer; however, the predicted fall surge has seen a spike in those requiring testing. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, more than 10 million people in the United States have tested positive for the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 256,000 American lives.
Leon County Health Department Health Officer Claudia Blackburn said this latest expansion of testing at the FAMU Bragg Memorial Stadium sets the stage for when vaccines become available by providing residents with an unprecedented level of access to COVID-19 tests.
“Right now, our job is to build a bridge to that day when safe and effective vaccines are widely available,” Blackburn said. “We do that by working together to limit the impacts of COVID-19 on our families and communities through the simple steps we know make a difference.”