TAMPA, Fla. - The rise in COVID-19 cases has increased the demand for testing in the Tampa Bay area, causing long lines and capacity issues at testing sites.
In Hillsborough County, cars were backed up at the Raymond James Stadium test site Tuesday. In Sarasota County, a testing site shut down because it reached capacity.
It was the same case Pinellas County where BayCare shut down its drive-through site in Carillon because traffic started to impact the nearby businesses. Lines of cars also formed at Gulf High School in Pasco County where an entire intersection was backed up with people waiting to be tested.
This week, Hillsborough County health officials launched a new dedicated phone number for coronavirus testing: 888-513-6321. The county hopes to go live Thursday with a website for scheduling appointments.
“Rather than having to get online with an operator and make an appointment, they can just schedule it themselves and all of it talks to each other,” said Jon-Paul Lavandeira, of Hillsborough County Code Enforcement and the taskforce lead for operations and logistics.
Hillsborough County hopes to curb call center wait times and long lines at testing sites. Officials said a big problem is people showing up without appointments.
“There has to be some order. There has to be some stability, and the only way to do that, as painful as it may sound in some respect, is for people to follow that process, make the proper phone calls,” said Lavandeira.
Statewide, it's estimated that just over 7% of Florida's population has been tested since March, however, Dr. Jay Wolfson with USF Health said the number of tests reported in the state does not represent the actual number of people tested because the same person can take multiple tests and the state counts them all separately.
“The important thing is to get 10 to 15% at least of the state, overall, and larger percentages of communities that are populated, tested,” said Wolfson. “The more people you have testing information about, the better you’ll be able to identify an outbreak in a community, a spark as we say before it becomes a fire.”
When it comes to COVID-19 testing at drive-through sites, Hillsborough County officials said people need to be patient and make an appointment so they don’t make wait times any longer.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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