TAMPA, Fla. - Nearly a thousand people a day come through the largest COVID-19 testing sites in Tampa Bay and demand for testing keeps going up.
The view from SkyFox of Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg last Friday showed long lines. That trend continued Tuesday and Wednesday, leading to the site shutting down early, according to Dave Connor, the Pinellas County public information manager.
County officials said they coordinate with the state on their testing supply and demand but also with local hospitals to get a sense of the community’s needs.
What many need is free access to testing and now they have more options.
In Hillsborough County, free county-run and state-run testing sites include Lee Davis Community Center and Suncoast Community Health Center.
In Pinellas County, there are dozens of county-supported testing sites, including Ruth Eckerd Hall, all Community Health Centers of Pinellas offices, and any AFC Urgent Care location.
CVS also offers free tests. If you have insurance, CVS will ask for the information, however, those who do not have insurance will be covered through a federal program.
To view testing sites in Hillsborough County, visit:
A list of Pinellas County test locations is available at https://covid19.pinellascounty.org/testing/.
“At all of those sites, people can get tested at no cost to them whether they are insured or not,” said Connor. “Many of those sites allow you to schedule appointments in advance if you don’t want to risk having to stay in line for quite a while.”
University of South Florida public health professor Dr. Marissa Levine said getting a test is just one of many steps in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
For example, Levine said a rapid test may not show a positive result one or two days after exposure.
"There might not be enough virus for some of those rapid tests to pick up the fact that you’ve been exposed,” she explained.
Public health experts said counties should be prepared to do even more testing as we go through the holidays.
“We will have people traveling to some of those hot spots. We will have tourists coming in, so by all definition, we expect that there will be more disease in the community,” said Levine.
Both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties said they are working with the state to figure out what is needed as cases rise in the community.
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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