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Florida opening 2 walk-in test sites in underserved places

April 17, 2020 GMT
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis responds to a question at a news conference at the Urban League of Broward County, during the new coronavirus pandemic, Friday, April 17, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis responds to a question at a news conference at the Urban League of Broward County, during the new coronavirus pandemic, Friday, April 17, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida will open two walk-in coronavirus testing sites in the Fort Lauderdale area to ensure people who can’t get to drive-up locations have a way to get checked, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday.

The two sites are in predominantly African American communities in Broward County, which has been one of the hardest-hit places by the virus. Many people in such areas rely on public transportation or other means to get around and have difficulty getting to a drive-up testing site.

“No one has to test. But it allows this to be brought to communities that may have been underserved,” said DeSantis, a Republican, outside the Urban League offices in Fort Lauderdale. DeSantis also wore a mask when not speaking at the news conference. “You can walk up to the site to receive a test or you can make an appointment to be tested.”

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State Department of Health statistics show that more than 225,000 people have been tested for the virus in Florida. DeSantis said about 56,000 of those tests have been at drive-up sites around the state. So far, more than 24,000 people in Florida have tested positive, leading to more than 3,500 hospitalizations and 686 deaths.

“We are going to be doing this hopefully in other places in Florida,” DeSantis said of the walk-in test sites.

Germaine Smith Baugh, the president and chief executive officer of the Broward Urban League, said about the testing in the county’s African American neighborhoods, “We absolutely need this now.” African Americans make up about 16% of Florida’s population, but 20% of its coronavirus deaths.

“It is an unfortunate and painful fact that this coronavirus is killing African Americans at a greater rate than any other group across the nation,” she said. “We do not want Florida to reflect the nation in this way ... This virus is no respecter of age, race, ethnicity, income or geography. It does not discriminate.”

DeSantis also said he is giving serious consideration to a request from the state’s nursing home associations that the industry be given a waiver from lawsuits stemming from the disease. He said other states have already done it.

He said that even with the proper protective gear and other precautions, homes could still have an outbreak as a worker with no symptoms could be a carrier and infect others.

There have been more than 1,500 confirmed cases in Florida nursing homes between patients and staff, with 141 deaths.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.