COVID-19 testing sites in Bay Area experience holiday rush ahead of Thanksgiving

Scaled-back holiday hours and increased demand for testing have created long lines at several Bay Area COVID-19 testing locations. 

In St. Petersburg, officials have had to close the Tropicana Field testing site early each day recently as nurses struggle to test everyone in a smaller time frame. 

Health experts predict demand for testing will only continue to increase through the holiday season as more people travel, giving the virus greater ability to spread.  

“We will have people traveling to some of those hot spots. We will have tourists coming in, so, by definition, we expect that there will be more disease in the community,” said USF Health Professor of Public Health Dr. Melissa Levine. 

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Dr. Levine also cautions that testing doesn't tell a complete picture, and a negative test result doesn't mean someone is in the clear. 

"If you were just exposed and you’re getting tested that day or one or two days after it, there might not be enough virus for some of those rapid tests to pick up the fact that you’ve been exposed," explained Dr. Levine. 

Health officials say PCR tests are considered the most accurate way to test for the virus. The "traditional" nasal swap tests are considered more sensitive than the rapid test, but because they're processed in a lab, results could take several days to come back. Rapid tests are able to deliver results within an hour. 

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Not every testing location offers both, so check ahead to make sure a site can provide the type of test you prefer. 

Some testing locations are closed this week for the Thanksgiving holiday. Others, like Tropicana Field, one of several free coronavirus testing locations in Pinellas County, have reduced operating hours ahead of Thanksgiving and will be closed on Thursday and Friday. 

For a full list of available test sites and hours, visit your county health department website:

Pinellas County

Hillsborough County

Manatee County

Polk County

Sarasota County