Mobile testing lab brings rapid tests to Bay Area long-term care facilities

Florida's new mobile COVID-19 testing lab is making its way to counties across the state, testing residents and staff at long-term care facilities, hopefully catching outbreaks before they take hold.

The state’s mobile testing lab was debuted by Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this month, and it has made its way from South Florida to the Tampa Bay area, doing rapid testing at long-term care facilities.

It’s a bus converted into a clinical laboratory on wheels.

StatLab Mobile’s testing unit has been traveling around the state for the last two weeks, focused on running samples from residents and workers at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“For us to be able to get on-site, collect, and provide the healthcare providers with information that they can then act on is very important,” said Jason Blilie with StatLab Mobile.

The operation is a partnership with the Florida Division of Emergency Management. The state assigns what long-term care facilities the unit mobilizes to, along with a team of nurses and the National Guard.

“They’re going location to location with us and they’re actually going into the facility and collecting the swabs,” Blilie said. “And then they bring those specimens to us.  We run the test on the bus and can get those results out in 24-hours.”

The mobile lab has been in the Tampa Bay area all week, hitting Sarasota, Manatee and Pinellas Counties before coming to Hillsborough on Thursday.

The unit has been in more than 13 cities across seven counties and has completed more than 2,600 tests.

“The whole thing is really amazing,” said Blilie.

Processing a sample through the system takes about 45-minutes, and teams keep the unit running 24-hours a day.

The governor has called StatLab Mobile a game-changer in our fight against COVID-19, bringing rapid testing directly to our most vulnerable.

“Everybody on the team is just really excited to be making an impact and be able to do something that matters right now,” Blilie said.