Gainesville Fire Rescue's Mobile Testing Unit provides 878 free COVID-19 tests in the community

On May 21st, Gainesville Fire Rescue (GFR) initiated a COVID-19 Mobile Testing Unit which consisted of GFR’s Community Resource Para-Medicine (CPR) Program Coordinator Ariella Bak, CRP Technicians, and Firefighter/ Paramedics.

The mobile testing unit was done in partnership between GFR, Gainesville Regional Transit System (RTS), the City of Gainesville Public Works department and the Alachua County Health Department. For 17 days, they traveled the city into low-income, vulnerable neighborhoods to provide free, accessible COVID-19 testing; 878 tests were conducted. 


“I was so impressed at the large amount of community members taking advantage of this opportunity. It felt great to provide services to those who may have not had any other options for testing,” said GFR’s Community Resource Paramedicine Technician Payton Campbell. 

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To allow for data driven decisions, the City of Gainesville identified a need for more local COVID testing to gauge the impact on our specific community. Every morning during the 17 days of testing, an RTS bus met GFR’s Firefighter/Paramedics at our training office to start the day. The CRP Team and Firefighter/Paramedics would arrive in the predetermined neighborhood for the day and begin setup while a lead vehicle circled the area playing an announcement, in both English and Spanish, on the loudspeaker.

Our neighbors would then have the opportunity to come out to the bus and get registered for testing by the CRP Resource Technicians. They were also screened for social determinants of health needs and were provided with information on helpful resources in Alachua County for food, transportation, and access to healthcare. 


As neighbors were registered they would be escorted onto the bus and Firefighter/ Paramedics, in full personal protective equipment also known as PPE, would conduct the test. After each test the bus would be sanitized and the next neighbor brought on board. A testing site was also set up at the rear of the bus to ensure social distancing guidelines were practiced when the response was heavy and to serve those with limited mobility. Additionally any citizen who needed special assistance was provided testing either in their personal vehicle or at their front door. The bus would trail behind the lead vehicle as they made their way around the neighborhoods street by street. 

“This city collaborative put forth a unique infrastructure for mobilizing preventative services. It is my hope we will continue to serve the Gainesville community at this level with citizens’ needs at the center of all. Thank you to the Health Department for your guidance, training and leadership in ensuring this initiative ran smoothly,” said Gainesville Fire Rescue’s Community Resource Paramedicine Coordinator Ariella Bak. 

For more information about Gainesville’s mobile testing unit or GFR’s Community Resource Paramedicine Program, please contact CRP Coordinator Ariella Bak at 352-318-4470. 

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