National Guard members spot check for virus at Florida nursing homes

Members of the Florida National Guard have started on-the-spot testing of residents at nursing homes for the new coronavirus as long-term care facilities in the state have reported scores of cases, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday.

Guardsmen have conducted tests of residents and staff at nursing homes in South Florida and UF Health Shands has done other spot-testing at facilities, DeSantis said.

“We want to continue to do that, given that is the most high-risk population," the governor said.

In Clay County, in the Jacksonville area, 49 cases have been reported at long-term care facilities, and 51 cases among residents and staff have been reported at a nursing home in Suwannee County, located halfway between Jacksonville and Tallahassee. Last month, DeSantis ordered a suspension of all visits to nursing homes, assisted living facilities and similar sites across the state.

As of Saturday morning, Florida had almost 18,500 coronavirus cases and 438 deaths.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, even death.

The governor also said Saturday that the state Department of Health has ordered serology tests that can detect coronavirus antibodies in people who aren't currently sick.

“There may be people who had an illness in February or March and didn't go to the doctor for it, and maybe they think, ‘Maybe I had it,'" DeSantis said. “You can also spot-check and see a representative sample to see how many people in our society have the antibodies."

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know


Map of known COVID-19 cases:

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