Doctor's offices move outdoors, use makeshift test kits to serve potential COVID-19 patients

On March 13, a patient with symptoms of COVID-19 stepped into Dr. Steve Grogg's office in Sarasota, but there were no supplies to administer a test. 

He threw together a swab and a vile to collect the sample, and then sent it off to a local lab. A few days later, the result came back: positive. 

"We had to MacGyver some testing supplies," Dr. Grogg said, adding the positive test was a turning point. "We knew then that we had to be prepared and start seeing patients out in our parking lot and screening patients in the parking lot."

Each morning, MedPeds Associates of Sarasota turns its parking lot into a drive-through test site. Patients with respiratory problems get swabbed for flu, strep, or COVID-19 by their primary doctor. 

"You need to listen to their lungs with stethoscopes. We are providing additional benefits to patients beyond just swabbing for COVID," he said. 

Out of 89 tests, four have come back positive. A local gynecology office donated swabs and transport vials so they can continue testing. Their tests are sent off to LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics. 

MedPeds Associates of Sarasota is not the only doctor's office testing outside of the hospital or health department. 

"We felt this was important because the illness would be on us, to be available as primary care practitioners, to be available to our patients, to do what’s required," said Dr. George Van Buren, the senior vice president of medical affairs with MCR Health, where they started testing in mid-March. 

MCR Health is a non-profit healthcare provider based in Manatee, Sarasota, and Desoto counties. They've screened 5,000 patients for COVID-19 from tents outside their practice.

"We've done about 500 tests, out of those 500 tests about 47 have come back positive. That’s service for our patients, but we’ve also gotten new patients that have come to us seeking the ability to get that test done," said Dr. Van Buren. 

Other healthcare providers are using curriers to drop off and collect home test kits. As more options become available, Dr. Van Buren said it's best for patients to consult with a primary doctor first.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know


Map of known COVID-19 cases:

MOBILE APP USERS: Click here for map