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Free COVID testing in the South Cape draws long line

By Staff | Jul 27, 2020

Residents from Cape Coral and elsewhere didn’t care how long it would take, as long as they were able to receive free testing for COVID-19 this past weekend.

Cars lined up around the block for testing for the new coronavirus Sunday as the Florida Department of Health in Lee County, in partnership with Cape Coral Fire Department and the city, provided up to 500 free COVID-19 tests in Cape Coral at the Chester Street Resource Center.

“We’ve partnered with the state and Lee Health and there’s certainly still a lot of demand to provide a facility with the firefighters to implement the test,” Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello said. “It’s for people who may not have had the opportunity to get an appointment.”

“We’re trying to get to those in the lower economic threshold, those who had barriers to get tests done. On Monday we go back to partnering with Lee Health which will require an prescription and appointment,” said Ryan Lamb, Cape Coral fire chief, adding they hope they can do another free testing in the next few weeks.

State Rep. Dane Eagle said the state is making sure that everyone who wants a test can get one, with the results coming in a timely manner.

“The governor is saying we need to be testing more and often. We’re going to see a spike in cases because we’re doing more testing, but we then have the knowledge to self-isolate because of what they know to stop the spread,” Eagle said. “The more tests have resulted in a slower turnaround, but we are able to test more and pushing to expedite that turnaround.”

Two drive-thru lanes and one walk-up area were available for anyone 18 and older. They were free and no doctors order or appointment was necessary.

The facility allows for sheltered testing so they can continue in the event of rain, something many test facilities don’t have.

The expectation was that there would be a line waiting at midnight as if they were ’80s teenagers waiting for Pink Floyd tickets. That didn’t quite happen.

The first cars showed up around 5:30 a.m. By 8:30, when testing was set to begin, there were nearly 200 cars waiting as the line snaked from the Resource Center, down Lafayette Street, Candia Drive, Cape Coral Parkway, and finally halfway up Coronado Parkway, practically guaranteeing the 500 tests would be used up early.

Florida Health workers processed those waiting at the front of the line to make the line flow better.

Mitch and Patty Kampf sat in their car on Cape Coral Parkway, saying they had only waited 35 minutes. They learned about it from police officers who told the Elks Lodge there would be extra traffic.

“We were thinking about traveling up north to Philadelphia to see the grandkids and wanted to be rest assured we didn’t have COVID-19 when we left,” Mitch said, a 12-year resident with his wife. “It’s devastating from a financial standpoint with the closure of restaurants and bars and people are strapped because they can’t go to work.”

Steve Hammerberg was way out on Coronado, guaranteeing at least a two-hour wait, but said he wanted to be sure he was OK because you may have the virus without the symptoms.

“I have a 9-year-old granddaughter I take care of and I came to check this out. What are you supposed to do?” said Hammerberg, who opted for this instead of the COVID- testing at Century Link Park because South Fort Myers was too far a commute. “Now, even kids can get it, So, why risk it?”

Starting Monday, the resource center will be open six days a week, but that will require a prescription and appointment.