UF researchers to collect data on asymptomatic carriers at The Villages coronavirus testing site

The University of Florida will for a limited time begin offering coronavirus testing this week, including tests for asymptomatic elderly residents as part of research into the quickly spreading virus, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced during an appearance Monday at The Villages.

Additionally, amid major concerns about the virus spreading in long-term-care facilities, DeSantis said the state is boosting supplies of masks and other protective equipment for nursing homes. That includes sending over the next two days 60,000 of what are known as “N95” masks, 141,000 procedure masks, almost 27,000 shields, 22,000 gowns and 78,000 gloves.

“We want all nursing homes and ALFs (assisted living facilities) throughout the state to have enough personal protective equipment so that any staff member that interacts with a resident at least has one of those respiratory masks. We’d like them to have the gloves and the other stuff, but at least you have that,” he said.

Thirty residents of long-term care facilities in seven counties have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19.  But a state report did not list the number of facilities, so the breadth of the spread is not clear.

COVID-19 can be deadly to seniors and people with underlying medical issues.

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Meanwhile, DeSantis said UF Health Shands has set up a COVID-19 testing site at The Villages, a massive retirement community in Central Florida, and has the capacity to test upward of 2,000 people, or 400 a day for the next five days. About 1,600 of the tests will be performed for research purposes on people who are asymptomatic and don’t meet the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for testing, which require people to be symptomatic.

The University of Florida Disease Lab will supply the kits for the research tests.

“We’re proud of our research universities, and this is the type of thing that’s tailored for them to really make an impact,” DeSantis said. “And I think they’re able to do some things that some of the local or state or even federal agencies are not going to be able to do. And so I really applaud them for all that.”

While the UF testing will be located at The Villages, it’s open to people who book appointments online at the website: https://ufhealthcovid.com.

As of 11 a.m. Monday, the state Department of Health reported 1,171 people had tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Florida, with 1,096 cases involving state residents and 75 involving non-residents. The number of cases is growing each day as more and more people get tested.

In all 10,338 people had been tested for the virus as of Sunday. Fourteen residents had died.