[Last updated on March 25, at 4:25 p.m.]
The fourth case was confirmed by the DOH at 9:54 p.m.
OCALA, Fla.— On March 22, the Marion County Department of Health received notice of its third positive case of COVID-19.
The individual is a 48-year-old male with a travel history and is a Marion County resident.
The Florida Department of Health in Marion County (DOH-Marion) is now conducting its contact investigation and working on identifying and notifying individuals who will need to self-monitor for symptoms for a 14-day period. Contact investigations are a critical way for staff epidemiologists to track and prevent the spread of disease.
Up until this week, testing for COVID-19 in Marion County has been non-existent.
According to the CDC, tests are being prioritized in certain areas.
Several nurses with Ocala Regional Medical Center, who would only speak with Ocala Post if their identities were not revealed, stated that in many instances, since February, they have tested patients for everything except COVID-19 due to a shortage of tests and information.
In some cases, patients who presented with flu-like symptoms but tested negative for the flu were sent home with a prescription for antibiotics and allergy medicine. Some patients were only sent home and told to use Flonase and other allergy medicines.
Dr. Jay Patel, said, “I suspect COVID-19 has been in Marion County. I have seen patients with flu symptoms and they did, in fact, test negative for the flu. We have not had the capability to test for COVID-19.” He went on to say, “Patients have been instructed to see their primary care physician (PCP), but we have not been able to test for COVID-19. This is one reason why people have been worried and scared. All over, some have felt like death for weeks and have had little information and no cure. I suspect now that testing can be done that we will see cases increase.”
Ocala Post reached out to Ocala Regional and asked if staff were instructed to test for other things other than COVID-19 as well if there was a shortage of tests.
In a statement, ORMC Public Information Officer, Lauren Debick, wrote, “Thank you for reaching out. We are following the protocols set by the CDC and Department of Health regarding COVID-19 testing so questions about testing would be answered by those entities.”
The DOH did not respond to questions about the lack of testing in Marion County.
Many Marion County residents have taken to social media to share their frustration. Some explaining how they “felt like they had been hit by a truck” and tested negative for the flu in February. Some say they had to miss weeks of work due to a severe cough, fever, and congestion and felt they would never get better. Others have said that even after three weeks they still feel ill and plan to get tested now that tests are available.
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NOTE: The Jay Patel mentioned in the article is not the Jay D. Patel, DO Resident Physician, Internal Medicine University of Central Florida/HCA GME with Ocala Regional Medical Center.