COVID-19 testing site fills up quickly

Sumter County Commissioner Al Butler, left, speaks with Amanda Jones, right, of the Sumter County Health Department as Butler thanks health care workers Tuesday during COVID-19 testing.

All reservations filled quickly this week for COVID-19 testing at New Covenant United Methodist Church. The church offered its property to the Florida Department of Health for mobile testing that began Monday and concludes Thursday. It was the efficiency of the testing Tuesday morning that earned praise from Sumter County Commissioner Al Butler as he toured the site with Sanford Zelnick, D.O., director of the department’s Sumter office. “They’re working in difficult circumstances,” Butler said. “It’s hot out there; it’s humid. So the work they’re doing is very much appreciated.” Butler applauded the church leadership for working with the health department, its staff and volunteers with the Sumter County Medical Reserve Corps. “This is an important thing to get done, because people depend on the data that these numbers give us to make the right kind of decisions for the health of the community and the economy,” Butler said. “Sumter County residents should be most appreciative, particularly in health situations like this, that we’ve got real professionals at the forefront guiding us as to what we should be doing. And we need to pay attention to their directions.”

The Rev. Harold Hendren, the church’s senior pastor, credited Anne Foot Hill, director of administration, as the liaison who set up the testing site through her contacts at the health department.

Church leadership agreed the testing met the church’s threshold as an important outreach ministry, Hendren said. Of its many ministries, the church is well-known for its support of the Wildwood Food Pantry.

“It says a lot about our vision for our church,” he said about the partnership with the health department. “The vision of our church is to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus Christ. So this is just another golden opportunity for us to connect with the community, especially with The Villages and the residents.”

Around 1,200 people secured reservations for testing, said Megan McCarthy, a biological scientist and health department spokeswoman. Staff tested around 238 people on the first day of testing.

“We’re very happy with the turnout,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful turnout.”

It’s also the health department’s latest test site, McCarthy said. Staff and volunteers tested 292 people, for example, during two days on a site at the Bevilles Corner Market north of Webster.

“They’re reaching out to everywhere in the county in a fair and equitable way,” Butler said. “They’re doing as much testing as they have resources for, which is a lot. They’re keeping up and in some cases getting ahead of other counties in that capability. It is extremely well-organized and well-thought through.”

Although test results won’t be available for days, Zelnick expects some positive results.

“We’re trying to identify people who are asymptomatic,” he said. “We’re going to find some of those people. The expectation should be that we going to encounter some positive cases. The idea is to identify them and recommend what they can do to protect themselves and their close friends.”

The recommendation would include quarantine for 14 days, Zelnick said.

“There’s no reason to contact a physician unless you are overtly sick,” he said. “There is no reason to contact a physician unless there is some physical frailty.”

Senior writer David R. Corder can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5241, or