Here’s why truckers need access to COVID-19 testing

April 9, 2020

Wendy Parker

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On April 3, OOIDA president Todd Spencer sent a mayday request directly to President Donald Trump asking for “urgent and immediate action to safeguard our supply chain” by assuring the professional drivers out there “busting their butts to care for the nation” have adequate access to COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment and, if needed, quarantine lodging outside of their trucks.

“Access to testing must be available where they are, particularly on busy truck routes. And testing must show results in hours, not days,” he said.

Nothing illustrates the need for this more than Stephanie Berry’s recent experience in Jacksonville, Fla.

Berry, a company driver from Charlotte, N.C., began feeling ill enough on March 27 to seek out medical care. She told Land Line about her day-long quest for COVID-19 testing at a facility or location that could accommodate a commercial vehicle.

She began looking for a medical facility that had enough room for a tractor-trailer that morning. One hospital had enough of a shoulder on which to pull off, but no safe truck parking accommodations.

“At that point I was just going to leave the truck parked where it was and walk across the lawn to get tested. I was sick, and I was scared. All I wanted to do was make sure I didn’t end up dying in the back of my truck,” Berry said.

After parking on the shoulder and calling the emergency room at the facility, Berry was told she needed a prescription to be tested for COVID-19. The hospital directed her to Urgent Care Travel.

She was prompted by Urgent Care Travel to contact a practitioner in Cartersville, Ga., via TeleMed (a virtual doctor’s office). A video-visit describing her symptoms concerned the TeleMed examiner enough that a prescription for testing was issued via e-mail. Berry was charged $40 for the visit and directed to the Prime Osborn Convention Center where she was told to show her prescription to be tested in the drive-thru facility.

Upon arriving at the convention center, Berry was told by officials directing traffic that she could not enter with a tractor-trailer, nor could she drop the trailer elsewhere and enter with just the tractor.

“They were very rude to me,” she said, “I was crying and I had a fever, I was sick and just wanted some help.”

Berry was directed to back out of the lot and given no further instructions by the people at that test site for having a test.

“By that time I was just mad at the whole state of Florida. I just wanted to get out of there.” Stephanie said. “I parked at the Pilot, called my dispatcher, and told him to get me the heck out of Florida.”

Thankfully, as it turns out, Berry did not have the COVID-19 virus, nor did she perish in the back of her truck at a truck stop from it. She eventually got a load to Virginia, and from there went home.

A visit with her family doctor in Charlotte confirmed Berry to be suffering from bronchitis and an upper respiratory infection. A round of antibiotics set her right, and even after the terrible experience she’s ready to roll again.

Here’s the kicker: the city of Jacksonville does have a COVID-19 testing site that can not only accommodate big trucks, it doesn’t require a prescription, and it’s free.

Here’s how a compendium of errors and misinformation resulted in her continuing to work without knowing her health status beyond “sick and scared.”

There’s more than one outdoor testing site in Jacksonville. One of them is at the Prime Osborn location and it only accepts referrals/prescriptions from the Telescope Health, a group of physicians in northeast Florida. This location requires a prescription to be taped to the windshield of your vehicle to enter the lot.

This is the location Berry was directed to by Urgent Care Travel, but this location does not accommodate tractor-trailers, nor do they allow vehicles without a properly displayed prescription to enter. They also do not take prescriptions from Urgent Care Travel.

The other COVID-19 testing location is called the “J” lot at the TIAA Bank stadium where the Jacksonville Jaguars play. The tests are free, and they can test up to 400 people a day. It is tractor-trailer accessible. Results times have been reported to be anywhere from 48 hours to 8 days.

The city of Jacksonville Public Affairs Office told Land Line their city is compelled to have contingency plans for the homebound and those unable to obtain testing in drive-thru facilities, and suggests that most cities should be compelled to have the same contingency plans in order.

If you are in need of a COVID-19 testing facility that is accessible by commercial vehicle and have been unable to find one, please contact the state health department nearest your location.

Wendy Parker

Wendy Parker has covered the trucking industry since 2012 after she says she “lost my mind and decided to climb inside my husband’s big truck to travel with him as an over-the road, long-haul trucker.” Her unique writing style that ranges from biting satire to investigative journalism coupled with her unbridled passion for fighting round out a wildly talented stable of writers.