Municipalities throughout South Florida are seeking ways to find the exact impact of COVID-19 and facilitate testing within their city limits. Some municipalities are going as far as offering in-home testing for their residents. However, Coral Gables administration has been mute on questions sent to them by Gables Insider regarding offering testing for residents.
On Tuesday, the Miami Herald broke news that Fisher Island purchased test kits to perform on all residents and employees who work on the island. Yesterday, we learned that Hialeah had purchased test kits from the University of Miami, who has created a rapid test at a cost of $17 per individual test. There are numerous other tests offered with antibody testing at a cost of under $10 a kit. Meaning that even at the University of Miami’s prices, the City could test every resident for about $850,000.
Gables Insider learned that Vice Mayor Vince Lago had emailed City Manager Peter Iglesias, on April 4th, requesting a meeting to discuss the possibility of offering testing to residents of Coral Gables. “I have spoken with the Mayor of Miami to better understand the existing MOU between Miami and Key Biscayne in regards to COVID-19 testing. The process is rather simple and has resulted in a screening protocol which has brought comfort to many Key Biscayne residents. I would like to have a discussion on Monday regarding what options we have at our disposal and the implementation of a similar MOU with the City of Miami.” stated Lago in his email. However, the City Manager was quick to shut this discussion down, claiming he had medical data that these tests are ineffective.
Gables Insider requested copies of this data, and found that only one test system was reviewed in this “medical data.” This test was not the University of Miami’s, rather one produced by BioTech.
So why not use the University of Miami’s tests?
When pressed for answers over the last few weeks, the City Manager has been clear to Gables Insider, that its goal is to continue providing the same services it has been providing. (i.e. Police, Garbage and City Beautification). Testing is not on Iglesias’ list of priorities. The City Commission, has yet to take action on this issue, and have not met since March 31st, while other Municipalities have called for weekly emergency meetings as the new norm.
Lago replied to a resident email inquiring about City testing yesterday, “As I have stated in the past and continue to believe testing should be provided for those in our community that are the most vulnerable and meet CDC protocols. I have brought to the attention of our Management team well over two weeks ago.” And Lago is not the lone member of the Commission who is interested in addressing this issue.
Commissioner Jorge L. Fors, Jr. told Gables Insider, “I don’t believe it’s practical for the City to undertake testing for the purpose of comprehensive infection control, but I want to have a serious discussion about offering testing as a service to our residents, who expect that level of service from the City.”
Commissioner Mike Mena also commented, “I brought an offer from a lab to the Manager two weeks ago and asked him to consult with the Mayor and his team to consider providing testing under their current emergency powers. So far, in consultation with their team of advisors they have decided against it. But our City administration is working extremely hard and making difficult judgment calls every day as we all work through this challenging and unprecedented time and I am proud of their efforts. The work of our city staff and first responders in the field is truly heroic. Essential services remain uninterrupted and we are calling over 600 seniors every week, paying many of them visits and helping them register for wellness checks. Those who want testing are being directed to existing testing sites within five miles or referred to Baptist Health or UHealth. Just recently I brought a private practice in Coral Gables to the Manager’s attention and he prudently approved their request to temporarily provide drive through testing in the City’s public right of way behind their medical office so that residents don’t even have to get down from their car. So testing is readily available locally. I also think it’s important to commend our residents who have taken this seriously and acted very responsibly on the whole. Our numbers have been relatively encouraging on a pro rata basis with less than 0.2% of our residents having even tested positive based on recent reporting from the Florida Department of Health. But we need to continue being vigilant.”
Leadership at the County level has granted access to County residents, including municipal residents in Coral Gables to County testing sites under the following directions:
COUNTY TESTING SITES
“You must first make an appointment by calling 305-499-8767 after 9 a.m. If you call before 9 a.m., you will not be able to connect. Anyone without an appointment will be turned away.
The call center will open from 9 a.m. until all appointment slots for the next day have been filled. For now, daily testing is available at this site for 200 people.
- Individuals 18 years of age and older who have COVID-19 symptoms can get tested
- You will not be permitted to exit your vehicle
- You cannot walk up to this testing site
- Only one other passenger is allowed in the car
- Both the driver and passenger will be tested”
AT HOME TESTING
The County is also offering at home testing for residents who are home-bound. Residents who qualify should follow these directions:
“Senior citizens and individuals over the age of 18 with disabilities who are experiencing symptoms but are homebound may call to request a COVID-19 test to be performed at their home by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue staff.
You must first make an appointment by calling 305-499-8767 starting at 9 a.m., seven days a week. The appointment line remains open until all appointments have been issued.”