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Doctors Without Borders Assisting with COVID-19 Response in Immokalee

Fl national guard medic preparing to administer COVID-19 tests in Immokalee. He is getting medical gloves duct taped to his gown.
Andrea Perdomo / WGCU
Fl national guard medic preparing to administer COVID-19 tests in Immokalee. He is getting medical gloves duct taped to his gown.

A small team from the international humanitarian medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders has been in Immokalee for the past few weeks assisting with the local response to COVID-19.

Doctors Without Borders normally operates in about 60 countries around the world, often ones that are famine-stricken or war torn. But since the coronavirus started spreading they’ve also been in the United States with teams in New York City and the Navajo Nation Reservation.

During a Collier County COVID-19 response call, Dr. Adi Nadimpalli, who is leading the local team, said they’re supporting prevention awareness, while working with Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida at mobile clinics, and beginning to help with contact tracing. He said they’re also ready to help expand testing efforts, but need test kits.

“One of the things that would be helpful is if there’s more access to tests that we can use so the persons who are positive, their contacts could get tested, so we can quell this outbreak.”

Dr. Nadimpalli said they’re ready to offer testing on evenings and weekends.

Immokalee Division Director for Department of Health Collier, Mark Lemke, said he is working with the department of health to try to get more test kits.

“So we will do our best to see if we can get some supplies so that you can be out there in the community and on the weekends.”

During three days of walk-up testing conducted by the Florida National Guard from May 3-5 1388 people were tested in Immokalee, 73 of which were positive for COVID-19.

Julia Perkins from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers said they’ve heard from people who now know someone who is positive or sick, so there is more concern overall. But, she said, there also seems to be less reluctance to get tested.

“The people who had to do the 1388 tests, those are kind of the cusp of it, right? And now there’s a second wave of people who saw it wasn’t scary and it’s information that people want to know.”

Farmworkers are at high risk from the new coronavirus because of crowded living and working conditions. They often have co-morbid conditions like hypertension and diabetes, which are known to increase mortality in COVID-19 cases.

While two new walk-up testing sites are coming to Naples next week, it is currently unclear whether a new testing site will be brought to Immokalee.

The first new Naples site will be open on Tuesday and Wednesday, May 19 and 20 at the North Collier Regional Park from 9:00am to 5:00pm. The second will be at the South Regional Library on Friday and Saturday, May 22 and 23, also from 9:00am to 5:00pm.