With more than 1,800 cases of COVID-19 reported in Collier County, knowing when and where to get tested is crucial to the health and well-being of our community. In an attempt to further flatten the curve of the coronavirus, multiple testing sites have opened in Collier County but it’s important to know the symptoms everyone should look out for when deciding whether or not to get tested.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidelines on possible symptoms, those who have COVID-19 may have a wide range of symptoms which could be mild to severe. Although the situation is still evolving, the most common symptoms seem to be dry cough, tiredness, fever, chills and shortness of breath. However, there have been cases of patients who have had nausea and diarrhea. 

If someone is experiencing coronavirus-like symptoms, it’s essential to follow the necessary recommendations set forth by health professionals before rushing to testing sites. 

“I suggest that the person with suspicious symptoms call his or her doctor for further discussion,” Dr. Suzanna Boka, MD said. “I do not suggest to self-order tests. The patient may have a different problem that gets missed when the test is (what is not always reliable) negative. I do not suggest to self diagnose or treat. I recommend seeing the primary care provider instead of going to a crowded ER or urgent care when the patient is stable.”

Since symptoms only appear 2-14 days after exposure, a person may be asymptomatic and still carry the virus, thus infecting others without knowing it. Following social distancing guidelines helps prevent asymptomatic transmission. 

“You need to know that most likely someone is already infectious before symptoms appear,” Dr. Boka said. “This has implications on others, who the person was in close contact with before the symptoms appear, so basically the close contacts also need to isolate themselves.”

The test itself is administered as a nasal swab, also known as a nasopharyngeal swab. The swab is inserted into the nostrils and takes samples of the cells where the nose and throat meet. It is then rotated for 15 seconds. Some say the swab is slightly uncomfortable and feels like breathing water through your nose, but it only lasts for a few seconds. 

Clinics, hospitals and private physicians have stepped up to provide COVID-19 testing to residents across the county.

“COVID-19 testing is offered at The Florida Department of Health in Collier County Naples and Immokalee locations. Naples Community Hospital, Physicians Regional, and the Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida, as well as private physicians, are also providing testing,” Public Information Officer for the Florida Department of Health in Collier County Kristine Hollingsworth said. 

Florida Department of Health in Collier County

Tests performed at the Florida Department of Health in Collier County are free of charge. Those who wish to be tested need to meet specific requirements. Before arrival, a physician’s referral is needed. Or, patients may also call 239-252-6220, which is available seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., to complete a screening process to evaluate symptoms. Test results will be available in approximately 48 hours. 

CenturyLink Sports Complex

The CenturyLink Sports Complex off of Six Mile Cypress in Fort Myers is offering tests for anyone aged 18 and older. Currently, it is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The test done at this location is drive-through. Meeting specific symptom criteria and appointments are not needed. Registration is on-site where a valid photo ID is required. 

Hospitals: Naples Community Hospital and Physicians Regional

Hospitals including NCH and Physicians Regional are also offering coronavirus testing. 

“For those who are symptomatic in Collier, they may contact their physician and get a prescription and go to the drive-through testing at NCH or they may contact the Health Department to determine if testing is needed and be tested there,” Administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Collier County Stephanie Vick said. “Or they may make an appointment with Healthcare Network of SWFL or finally they may go to Physicians Regional who will refer non-symptomatic individuals to one of their clinics.”

NCH Baker Hospital

Mobile/drive-through testing at the NCH Baker Hospital offers appointments every day from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. A physician’s order, a photo ID and up-to-date insurance information is needed when scheduling the appointment. The test is billed through Quest Diagnostics. 

Diagnostic tests at any NCH Hospital location is set at $69 per test. This type of testing is only available to hospital patients due to limited test kits. Those who are not patients at the hospital may get tested at the mobile site. 

The Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida

The Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida is not accepting walk-ins in order to protect staff members from potential exposure. All patients may call the network at 239-658-3000 to assess their condition. Patients receiving COVID-19 testing and visiting the office for the diagnosis of potential coronavirus symptoms will not be charged. 

Before someone who is experiencing symptoms has been evaluated by a doctor, self-quarantining is especially important to reduce the risk of passing on the virus to someone else. 

“Until one is able to consult with the doctor, they should isolate and avoid being in one room or airspace with others,” Dr. Boka said. “This may decrease the distribution of the pathogen.”