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Okaloosa to begin free outdoor COVID-19 testing

Tony Judnich
tjudnich@nwfdailynews.com
Northwest Florida Daily News

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SHALIMAR — Starting Thursday, Okaloosa County officials plan to start offering free COVID-19 tests to all county residents, whether or not they show symptoms of the disease.

The outdoor drive-through tests will be provided from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday for at least the next four weeks at various sites on a rotating basis. The tests will start being provided from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Thursday at the Crestview Community Center.

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Here are the five sites for the drive-through tests:

• Crestview Community Center, 1446 Commerce Drive, Crestview

• Baker Emergency Medical Services Station 5 at State Road 4 and U.S. Highway 90

• Northwest Florida State College main campus at 100 College Blvd. East, Niceville

• NWF State College campus at 1170 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Fort Walton Beach

• Destin United Methodist Church, 200 Beach Drive, Destin.

The County Commission on Tuesday approved the overall testing format. The tests will be provided by employees of the county Department of Public Safety/Emergency Medical Services Division and the state Department of Health in Okaloosa County.

Residents must bring their driver’s license or other government-issued form of identification and stay in their vehicles during the testing.

Each resident will have his or her nose swabbed. Each swab will be shipped to a state lab, with results typically determined in about five to seven days.

Residents will be able to drive right up to the test site, with no appointment necessary, county Public Safety Director Pat Maddox said. The county aims to test 100 residents per three-hour period with two lanes open per site.

The Department of Health will be responsible for recording statistics on the number of residents tested and positivity rates.

After four weeks, an evaluation will be performed to check for the effectiveness and necessity of continuing the drive-through tests, according to Maddox.

The county will be responsible for paying an anticipated overtime cost of about $104 per week for county EMS personnel working at the testing sites.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Maddox reminded everyone to continue practicing social distancing and keep work spaces and other areas sanitized.