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Health experts look at new method as way to ramp up testing to ensure safety sooner

Over the past seven days, Florida has seen close to the same total number of cases reported as it has had in the first three months of the pandemic combined. Thursday, the state broke its record for total cases reported in one day with more than 10,000.

Testing is increasing, but health experts are looking at ways of ramping up testing even further as a way of making things safer before places like schools reopen.

Close to one out of every four people tested in Southwest Florida in the last 24 hours has tested positive for the virus.

“It’s concerning, certainly, when we get to the 20% threshold,” said Robert Hawkes, the director of the FGCU physician assistant program. “We’ve kind of been talking about keeping it under 10%, in terms of that safe range. But we’re clearly above that.”

Younger people are making up a large percentage of these record breaking numbers. The governor says some are not following safety guidelines.

And people want to see others take the virus seriously so we can get back to normal life.

Jennifer Ramirez in Fort Myers said the rise in cases makes them rethink their family’s safety and their holiday plans.

“I’m doing the best that I can for myself and my kid,” Ramirez said.

To help families get back to normal life, including getting kids back to school, members of the White Coronavirus Task Force are discussing a new method of testing called “pool testing.”

Samples are collected from multiple people and then all tested in one kit.

“The advantage is we can certainly test a greater number of people,” Hawkes said. “Instead of testing, you know, 500,000 people a day, we could test several million people a day. But the downside is, if one person’s positive and the other ten are not and all the samples get mixed, it may actually dilute it.”

A negative result means more people are cleared all at once. A positive then means the people in that pool are tested individually.

“If you have three, four, five, six people in a household, do that one household and then determine is anyone positive or not, versus kind of randomly just picking five to ten people,” Hawkes said.

Hawkes hopes these record-breaking numbers will be a reminder for people getting out this holiday weekend to keep their distance from others and wear a mask when distance is not possible.

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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