Mike Lahi has had a cough for more than a week. The 63-year-old has diabetes, and his medical history includes major heart surgery. But when he called to make an appointment to be tested for COVID-19 at the Marlins Park site recently, he was told he didn't qualify because he is younger than 65 and lives in Coral Gables, a different jurisdiction.
So when a new test site opened today at the Miami-Dade County fairgrounds, Lahi and his son Kevin decided to wait in line to see if this time would be different.
"I'm glad there's a testing site, but there should've been one much quicker. There should be many, many more sites," Kevin Lahi told New Times. "The fact that other areas declined to help us because we weren't in their district or city was ridiculous."
Just before noon, the line of cars waiting to enter the fairgrounds site on SW 107th Avenue stretched from the entrance at SW 20th Street all the way to SW Eighth Street, about three-quarters of a mile. The Lahis said they had been sitting in line for an hour; they were still a block from the entrance.
The test center, which is being run by Florida International University (FIU), the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition, and the Florida Department of Health, is the latest in a list of drive-thru sites popping up across South Florida as the number of infections continues to rise and many cases presumably go unreported.
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Officers from the FIU and Miami-Dade police departments have been stationed along the street outside the university's main campus, which is adjacent to the fairgrounds, to direct traffic and allow a few cars to enter at a time.
Nora Lobo, who was behind Lahi by quite a few cars, had also been waiting in line for more than an hour. She and her husband said they came down with body aches and fevers over the weekend.
"We're just happy we can get tested no matter what," Lobo said from a distance.
The fairgrounds testing center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointments must be made over the phone at 305-499-8767 for the following day, and the site will only take 300 appointments a day. To qualify, a person must be 18 or older and show symptoms associated with COVID-19.