Nurse Suzy Jo Dwyer takes a patient’s vital signs in the outdoor testing tent that Advanced Urgent Care has erected for COVID-19 testing in Key West; another is in Key Largo. LARRY BLACKBURN/Keys Weekly

A large, handwritten sign at the entrance to Advanced Urgent Care on North Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West advertises “COVID-19 testing,” but an equally large stop sign at the front door prevents patients from going inside the center until they’ve spoken with a health care professional in the parking lot.

Masked health care workers intercept and interview everyone who arrives at Advanced Urgent Care to determine whether they are at risk of having the virus that has changed the world in recent months.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of a dry cough, shortness of breath and fever, and those who have been exposed to the virus through travel or close contact, are escorted to the facility’s outdoor testing tent in the rear of the parking lot, rather than admitted to the waiting room.

Nurses at the tent will take vital signs and a medical history, and, if appropriate, will administer a nasal swab test, which takes two days for results. Patients will be advised to isolate themselves until the results come back. The same testing is available at the Advanced Urgent Care in Key Largo. 

Dr. Bruce Boros, owner of the urgent care facilities, said he is also awaiting new test kits that use a finger stick and small blood sample. Those results are available in 15 minutes.“We’ve tested about 25 people,” Boros said on Tuesday, March 24, but patient privacy laws prevent him from saying whether any had been positive.

“But I do think this week is a crucial time period for the Florida Keys, given the timing of this virus, and the time that now has passed since we had large groups of tourists here, cruise ship passengers, spring breakers and seafood festival attendees,” Boros said. “We could very well see a surge in positive test results this week; hopefully not.”

In addition to COVID-19, Boros has another concern he’s trying to alleviate with the separate, outdoor testing area.

“We are acutely aware that people are still experiencing other health problems like kidney stones, sprained ankles or strep throat, but they’re hesitant to seek treatment, because they don’t want to come in and sit next to someone in a waiting room who could have coronavirus,” Boros said. “We understand those concerns, and we’ve reconfigured our facilities to put people’s minds at ease and keep the virus testing outside and separate.”

Barbie Wilson, the radiology supervisor at Advanced Urgent Care, emphasized the importance of educating oneself at coronavirus.gov.

“You can’t ‘catch’ coronavirus just by walking past someone who has it,” she said. “Unless you happen to walk through their sneeze, you can’t get it like that. This virus isn’t transmitted through the air like tuberculosis. It’s passed through liquid droplets from a sneeze or cough. If you come in contact with a droplet and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, that’s how it’s transmitted,” Wilson said.

Boros also recommends keeping one’s phone, keys, pen and other common items sanitized.

The COVID-19 testing tent is seen in the rear of the parking lot at Advanced Urgent Care. Patients are interviewed before being admitted to the waiting room. LARRY BLACKBURN/Keys Weekly

“Say I’m at the bank counter and I set my phone down,” Boros said. “If someone with coronavirus had previously been at that counter and sneezed or coughed, the virus could still be living in those miniscule droplets on that counter and I’ve now picked it up on my phone. If I touch my face, I could get it.

“That’s why it’s so important to practice social distancing, to keep your hands clean, to avoid touching your face and to sanitize surfaces, phones and other items as often as humanly possible,” he said.

“I do believe the next 10 days will be a crucial time period for us here in Monroe County,” Boros said. “But people with other health concerns shouldn’t avoid seeking treatment.”
People are still getting the flu, strep throat, kidney stones, allergic reactions, broken bones and other injuries. 

“We’ve worked to put those people’s concerns at ease and want them to know it’s safe to seek treatment for something else,” Boros said, thanking and commending his front-line health care workers for caring for patients despite risks to themselves.

“We’re not testing everyone,” Wilson emphasized, adding that it wouldn’t be a wise use of limited resources. “Unfortunately, people are reading too much information online these days, so if they want a test, they know exactly what to say.”

Boros and his staff recommend coronavirus.gov as the comprehensive source for accurate information. 

For patients who do meet the COVID-19 testing criteria, the testing company will bill them $130 for the test, which is not due at the time of the test. Advanced Urgent Care has lowered its office visit prices by 33% through April, Boros said, so the office visit for coronavirus and non-virus-related visits has dropped from $150 to $100, which is due at the time of the visit.

 

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