Lake Nona-based driverless shuttle company, Beep, is helping to transport testing kits and deliver food to healthcare workers.
Beep partnered with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority to move Lake Nona’s autonomous shuttle to Jacksonville, where it delivered testing kits from a Mayo Clinic drive-through testing site to another building on the Mayo Clinic campus.
“We are operating in a very safe environment but with no driver onboard whatsoever,” Beep CEO Joe Moye said. “So it’s enabling us to minimize the exposure that they would otherwise have to those samples.”
The used testing kits were loaded onto the driverless shuttle by a gloved and masked testing site employee, who secured the bin of kits with a bungee cord and then transported it to a nearby building within the Mayo Clinic’s Jacksonville campus, where another gloved employee took the bin of kits awaiting the test results.
The Mayo Clinic is one of the leading researchers in the fight against coronavirus. The clinic focuses their research on everything from epidemiology, immunology, and vaccine development to clinical trials, infection prevention and control, how to clean surfaces and masks, and artificial intelligence.
Social distancing, like limiting contact through the use of driverless shuttles to transport used testing kits, has helped the Mayo Clinic, among other medical centers, be better able to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It has given us time to develop new resources, to develop clinical trials, to get them into patients, to acquire more PPE, to understand staffing models, to understand testing and who we should test and when we should test,” said Stacey Rizza, an infectious diseases doctor at the Mayo Clinic.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the autonomous shuttles are stepping up to bring contactless delivery to a new level and help those in need by changing their temporarily suspended usual Lake Nona route to help the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville as well as the Orlando VA Medical Center in Lake Nona.
In Lake Nona, Beep’s self-driving shuttles are bringing lunch to frontline health responders working at the Orlando VA Medical Center.
Park Pizza & Brewing partnered with Beep and the Lake Nona Partners to bring the healthcare staff of the Orlando VA boxes and boxes of pizza from the restaurant to the medical center.
“There are hundreds of healthcare workers in our backyard, in Lake Nona[’s] Medical City, that are on the frontlines of this crisis each and every day,” said Jennifer Thompson with Park Pizza & Brewing. “We’re proud to actively support our healthcare workers in these challenging times, and this latest lunch delivery is a wonderful example of the generosity and collaboration that Lake Nona is known for.”
The pizza boxes were sealed with a blue Park Pizza & Brewing sticker, loaded onto a cart, and then placed carefully in the shuttle, ready to be transported alongside the shuttle attendant to the Orlando VA to further limit contact with the delivery. Some brown bags filled with more food that were transported atop of the pizza boxes carried handwritten messages saying “thank you for all you do” and were sealed with another blue sticker.
This comes after a survey revealed that, for the first time, 90% of veterans trust the VA healthcare system nationwide, according to an April 30 press release from the VA. The increase in trust veterans have for the U.S. outpatient system of the VA hospitals across the country has risen more than 5% since 2017, and many leaders of the veteran health system believe it has a large part to do with the faculty.
“These improvements are a testament to not only [the] VA’s investment in patient experience programs but also the dedication of our employees.” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Even during a pandemic, our VA team has continued its steadfast commitment to delivering the highest quality care for our nation’s veterans.”
The Orlando VA is still not allowing in-person visits to limit exposure to COVID-19 and, therefore, are utilizing virtual visits as another way to socially distance. However, the medical center will soon begin to offer elective procedures.
“We want to give back to the community, we want to give back to the first responders, and this is our way of saying thank you for helping,” said Mark Reid, the senior vice president of channels and alliances at Beep.
While Lake Nona partners and others have organized additional events to help first responders, Beep is still looking for other ways the autonomous shuttles can help during the COVID-19 crisis. Some Lake Nona community members are coming together to help fight the virus in whatever ways they can.
The Orlando police department organized a “light up the night drive by salute” through Laureate Park, the Lake Nona VA, and Nemours last week. “Chalk Your Walk,” where sidewalks all over the community are filled with positive messages to first responders and armies of community mask makers, donated hundreds of homemade masks to people on the frontlines.
“It’s an honor to provide for those who are on the frontlines of this pandemic,” Moye said. “Mobilizing our team and partnerships in any way we can to support our communities is necessary in this time of need.”