COVID-19 testing underway in Immokalee!

Immokalee residents line up to be tested for COVID-19 on Sunday as the Collier County Department of Health begins three days of testing following calls by the CIW and tens of thousands of allies for more attention from state and local health officials for the vulnerable farmworker community.

Hundreds of Immokalee residents walk, bike, and drive to mass testing site after governor, local health officials respond to growing call for support…

Department of Health spokesperson: “We have heard the needs of Immokalee.  We understand the unique needs.”

3 times more people tested on first day alone than during entire month of April…

After more than a month of calls to the governor, nearly 40,000 petition signatures, and countless national media stories, the pleas of Immokalee’s farmworker community for vital aid in the fight against the coronavirus are starting to be heard.  State and local health officials organized a mass testing site in Immokalee for three days starting this past Sunday, and hundreds of Immokalee residents lined up for a chance to learn if they had contracted the deadly virus: WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida

Here’s a report from Southwest Florida’s NPR affiliate, WGCU:

Two hours before testing was set to begin at the Collier Department of Health’s Immokalee branch, people began lining up. Some held umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun.

Kristine Hollingsworth of the Collier DOH surveyed the site to  ensure testing could be done safely and smoothly.

“We have fans, we have marks on the ground where people will know to stand six feet apart and continue to practice social distancing,” Hollingsworth said. “There’s plenty of hand sanitizer, there’s hand washing stations, so we are fully prepared.”

Hollingsworth said the testing site was an interagency effort. Collier Sheriff’s Officedeputies were onsite to help direct traffic, members of the local fire department were on hand, the Collier Area Transit even had buses onsite that were being used to cool patients who needed a break from the Southwest Florida heat…

… Bringing a testing site to Immokalee was something local nonprofits repeatedly asked county officials for during weekly community conference calls to discuss the COVID-19 response in Immokalee.

Frank Rincon of the Benison Center was smiling as he set snacks and cold drinks for those waiting to be tested on a table parallel to the line.

“I was elated when the testing was announced because it is something that’s needed, especially in Immokalee where you have people that live in close proximity to each other,” Rincon said. “Some people live 10, maybe 12 people to one structure, a small structure. And [testing] is a need more than a desire or a want.”

The struggle to contain the coronavirus in Immokalee is a developing story – but there is no doubt that these three days are a tremendously important step forward, and one that families in Immokalee have been anxiously waiting for since the outbreak began.

Though the advent of COVID-19 testing is a step in the right direction, there remains much to be done to steel the vulnerable farmworker community for the fight ahead.  Test results will begin to arrive later this week, when those who test positive will require follow-up services, including alternative housing for those who cannot quarantine at home and contact tracing to cut off the further spread of the virus.  To that end, we will conclude today with one of many excellent pieces of reporting from Southwest Florida’s Fox 4:


Check back soon for the very latest from Immokalee as we continue the fight in the days and weeks ahead!