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Marble Testing Site Serves Schools

By Christopher Tittel

February 08, 2022

John Marble Park Testing Site 

Tatiana Lorenzo sits quietly at a
cafeteria table inside the front door to
the COVID-19 testing site that the
Florida Department of Health in
Manatee County (DOH-Manatee) has
been running at John Marble Park
since the beginning of the 2021-22
school year.
The site offers rapid PCR tests for
the School District of Manatee
County (staff, students and families)
and employees of Manatee County
Government and DOH-Manatee.
These are the children who need to
be in school and folks who work the
frontlines serving members of the
public all day long. They need to
know their COVID status as quickly as
possible to determine whether to return
to work to finish out the day or head
home for a 5-day isolation period.
DOH-Manatee staff members run the
site, sometimes working into the wee
hours of the next day to process upward
of 400 tests collected the day before so
that they can clear the decks for the next
day’s worth of testing.
Lorenzo is taking a short break from
the constant whirl around the
gymnasium, sanitizing everything from
clipboards and pens to long tables to
door handles on entrances, exits and
Lorenzo is key to easing public
concerns that the virus could be lurking
on high-touch surfaces.
Alex Rana, who normally works in the DOH-Manatee
Medicine Room, is currently working the front door to the
testing site.
Rana welcomes clients to the site, handing out
consent forms and information on COVID
testing, taking temperatures and offering
disposable face masks and latex gloves to
anyone in need.
“We’re providing a much-needed service to
the community,” Rana said through his face
mask and protective shield. “It’s great to work
together to get these numbers down.”
Rana refers to the COVID positivity rates
seen in Manatee County in recent months.
According to Dr. Edwin Hernandez, clinical
administration director and John Marble site
manager, COVID positivity rates when the
site reopened after the December holiday
break were running between 30 and 50
Today, they’re holding somewhat steady at
32 percent.
“We still have a way to go in bringing those
rates down to where we want them to be,” Dr.
Hernandez said.

Come on Over
Clients proceed from the welcome table to
the registration table, where completed
consent forms are collected, testing packets
are distributed and instructions on how to
proceed are given.
John Quartuccio, Jimmy Flores and Isaac
Gomez, whose primary desk job includes data
entry, sit at the registration tables when
working the site.
“Students, teachers and county workers have
a higher risk of exposure,” Quartuccio said.
“It’s important to have a site like this where
results can come back quickly.”
Gomez adds that Marble wait times are
considerably shorter than at other test sites.
“We always try to make them feel at home,”
Flores said.
Tracy Rones, who normally works the
COVID vaccination front at DOH-Manatee’s new location
— Manatee South Center, 7780 Westmoreland Road,
Bradenton — said the “feel at home” efforts are vital.
“It makes everyone, especially the children, feel less
nervous about the experience.”

The Big Moment
Testing packets in hand, clients proceed from the
registration tables to the clinical staff.
“This constitutes the second level of
prevention efforts and epidemiological
investigation,” Dr. Hernandez said. “Testing is
the essence to strategizing next steps in
mitigation efforts.”
Iliana Drice and Yashida Fergerson, both
licensed practical nurses, are swabbing clients on
this particular day.
A small swab is inserted into one nostril and
twirled several times and then inserted into the
other nostril and twirled several times before it is
slipped into a plastic bag with client information
attached and passed to the “test readers.”
“It’s a great feeling putting public health into
action,” Dr. Hernandez said. “It demonstrates
our commitment to the agency’s mission, which
is to protect, promote and improve the health of
all people in Florida through integrated state,
county and community efforts.”

Beth Ozimek, Damaris Jose, Sonia Hernandez,
Elizabeth Matute and Diana Mendoza are the
“test readers” for the day.
Each swab they receive is inserted into a
plastic box about the size of a deck of cards with
sensors that read the results of each test.
The results are sent to DOH-Manatee’s
epidemiological team to load into the Merlin
disease tracking system and to the contact
tracing team to notify those who test positive.
Ozimek and the “test readers” know the
importance of the role they play in preventing
the spread of disease.
“It’s about helping Manatee County stay safe,”
Ozimek said.

Additional Support
Like Tatiana Lorenzo, Wes Pyontyk plays a
vital role in supporting the operation with
oversight of the facility itself.
He also makes clear the importance of this
service to Manatee County.
“We want to make sure we have less disease in the
community,” Pyontyk said. ◊
Christopher Tittel is communications director at DOHManatee.

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