TAMPA, Fla. - Four new COVID-19 testing sites opened in Hillsborough County Wednesday, adding to the effort to increase testing capacity in Tampa Bay.
Three sites are run by county officials, and one site at Busch Gardens’ Adventure Island is run by AdventHealth.
“We will be doing about 4,000 tests a day in our community,” said Mayor Jane Castor of Tampa.
AdventHealth’s Adventure Island site will be able to administer up to 2,000 tests per day for the next 30 days. Healthcare workers said they give patients a jar for a saliva sample that is later processed by a lab.
“The traditional way of doing it is with a nasal swab, which is basically a long swab up the nose, and that could deter some patients from wanting to be tested,” said Dr. Rainer Chan, the chief medical officer at AdventHealth Medical Group. “So, we want to provide an easier way for patients to be tested with saliva testing.”
Tampa city leaders said testing is an important step toward knowing when to reopen the economy.
“It’s difficult to make decisions on a limited amount of data. And in the state and in our county as well, we have tested barely over one percent of the population,” said Castor.
On a statewide level, Governor Ron DeSantis is pushing for more.
“I talked to the CEO of Abbott Labs today about other ways to be able to have as much robust testing as possible,” said DeSantis.
The governor said the state signed contracts with two new companies to help process 18,000 more tests per day. He said the increased capacity will help underserved communities.
“These tests at these labs will primarily be where we send our samples that we collect in the long-term care and assisted living facilities and at the community-based walk-up sites,” said DeSantis.
So now the only thing workers can do is wait for people to show up.
“We need the community to come and be tested,” Castor said.
County officials are in charge of the following testing sites:
Lee Davis Center: 3402 North 22nd Street in Tampa
Plant City Community Resource Center: 307 North Michigan Avenue in Plant City
SouthShore Community Resource Center: 201 14th Avenue SE in Ruskin
As with previous drive-thru testing sites, this is by appointment only. Testing at the above three locations will only be administered for symptomatic individuals who have pre-registered and scheduled an appointment through the county's call center: 813-272-5900.
The call center is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
People who do not have a designated primary care physician or are uninsured are still eligible for pre-screening and pre-registration through the call center. There is no charge for the test administered at Hillsborough County locations.
If a resident is scheduled for a test, the county says they will be informed of the time, date, and testing location during the phone call.
Those who are registered must arrive in a personal vehicle at that scheduled time. Each person who must be tested must be seated next to a working window. They must also have a photo ID with a name and date of birth for all who are being tested.
They must also bring the correct confirmation code provided by the call center. This can be a printed copy of the testing confirmation email received from the call center, a screenshot of the confirmation number, or the code can be provided verbally.
AdventHealth will be staffing a testing site at Adventure Island for 30 days. The address is 10001 McKinley Drive in Tampa.
Hospital officials said they can administer 2,000 tests per day to anyone who meets the criteria set by the CDC. A doctor's order is not required and there is no out-of-pocket costs, regardless of a resident's insurance status.
AdventHealth says they will cover the cost for those without insurance. Preregistration is available by heading to AdventHealthCoronavirusTesting.com or call 866-694-5503 during the hours of 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. for screening and registration.
During the registration process, people will be asked to enter their contact information, insurance information and will be assigned a time to show up for testing.
Testing takes place from noon to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 22, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each weekday after that for a period of 30 days.