Drive-thru, $200 coronavirus testing stopped in Panama City

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — An Alabama entrepreneur said Sunday that his planned $200 a pop, cash only, drive-thru, coronavirus testing operation was a public service. But after concern from city officials, the new business may be over before it began.  

Scott McArdle, the owner of Gulf Coast Molecular Laboratories in Spanish Fort, Ala., was planning to open the drive-thru service in a parking lot in Panama City on Monday. But on Sunday, he said the plan was on hold after receiving calls from city leaders. 

“First off, they tried to say we were not authorized by the property owner,” McArdle said. “Once we established that … they said, ‘Well, but you haven’t gotten authority from the Public Health Department to do this.’”

When asked if he had checked in with Florida’s Department of Health about COVID-19 testing McArdle suggested his partnerships with local doctors meant that he was covered by essentially doing the same testing they were doing in their offices. 

“We’re trying to do something to be helpful and we’re getting push back, after push back,” McArdle said. “Would it generate money? Absolutely, it would. That’s no different in my opinion than any doctor seeing patients.” 

The tests, the employees and the machines that examine the tests all cost money, he said, adding that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ comments about free testing had been, “ill-informed.” 

“Walmart is not giving away Tylenol and Ibuprofen for free,” McArdle said.  “We’re charging a reasonable fee for a reasonable service in a time that the public is looking for it.”

Florida’s Department of Health in Bay County said they have “received calls from several persons concerned about the testing and the charge of $200.” 

They added that consumers should report anyone who charges money for coronavirus testing to state authorities.

“We want anybody to know they shouldn’t be paying out of their pocket for any testing and if they see or hear of that they need to report it to the Attorney General,” said Heather Kretzer, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health in Bay County. “All testing is supposed to be coordinated through the Department of Health.”

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