Officials are urging residents to not treat hospitals as testing centers

Residents line up for COVID-19 testing

Residents line up for COVID-19 testing on Wednesday at the New Smyrna Beach city gym.

As with other areas in the state and around the country, the local COVID-19 numbers continue to rise. 

The Florida Department of Health statistics show positivity cases have risen by 22.5% in Volusia County and 24% in Flagler County.

New case positivity rates are up to about 31% among the Black population, nearly 27% among whites and about 33% in the His- panic population.

The rise in cases was originally expected with the flu season and cooler weather. 

“We did expect the rise but not at this rate. The rise in cases is higher than ever. We knew the holiday season and cooler weather would factor but not at this rate,” said Ethan Johnson, assistant director of Community Health Services for the Florida Department of Health-Volusia County.

Johnson further explained, “For example, back during the first week of August we were at 600 cases per 1,000 population. Last week, it was 713 and next week it will probably be at 1,000.”

‘Treat it seriously’

The omicron variant is mostly to blame.

“Without the presence of omicron, this rate of increases wasn’t predicted. It’s mostly because of omicron but the holiday season also played a role with more people traveling and gathering,” said Johnson.

Although hospitalizations are up, they aren’t as high as the number of new positive cases.

“Hospitalizations are up, but thankfully, not at the high rate as our cases,’’ he stated.

Health care professionals are urging people to take the virus seriously. “We must treat it seriously because individuals will be impacted.

Symptoms are often similar to cold and flu, which isn’t as transmissible, so we will have more cases,” emphasized Johnson.

“Also, they don’t have the same potential for severity as people with underlining conditions or the elderly. Although the symptoms aren’t as severe, we still want to protect ourselves and our most vulnerable.’’

Boosters encouraged

Although those vaccinated can still be infected with the virus, vaccinations and boosters are highly encouraged.

“We definitely want people to get the vaccine and their boosters. It’s still the best form of protection,” added Johnson.

Local health care officials also are urging the public not to go to hospitals for COVID-19 tests.

A statement released Wednesday noted that Volusia County officials, along with the county’s two primary hospital providers – AdventHealth and Halifax Health – are urging residents to go to one of the community testing centers around the county to avoid diverting time and resources away from emergency room patients in need of urgent care

“Hospitals aren’t testing centers. That’s not their primary purpose.

Emergency rooms are full of sick and critically ill people who need immediate and in many cases lifesaving care. No one should want to go to the hospital if it isn’t absolutely necessary. There are better and more appropriate places to get tested,” said Volusia County Interim Public Protection Director Mark Swanson.

Multiple testing sites

There are multiple testing sites in Volusia County, including locations at Daytona International Speedway, Dewey O. Boster Park in Deltona, the New Smyrna Beach city gym and Health Department offices in Daytona Beach and Orange City.

Additional locations include AdventHealth Centra Care in Orange City and MedExpress in DeLand. Officials point out that other urgent care clinics, personal care physicians and medical offices, pharmacies and self-testing kits also are options.

Area pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens, continue to offer COVID-19 testing at no cost. Online appointments are required.

COVID testing sites can be found at

Patience is urged as officials look at options for increasing testing availability.

“Emergency rooms are just that – a place to treat medical emergencies,” said Swanson.

“Naturally, anyone experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms should seek immediate care. But visiting the emergency room without a true need risks overwhelming the emergency care system that’s designed for those who truly need it. And that’s what we’re trying to prevent.”

The health department is still partnering with other organizations to address COVID-19 health disparities in Black and Brown communities.

“We are still providing education and vaccination at public events weekly. We are still going into the community and partnering with other organizations to provide education, testing and vaccines,” expressed Johnson.

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