Long lines return to Bay Area COVID-19 test sites as case numbers rise

Florida health officials reported nearly 7,000 new coronavirus cases Friday -- almost 1,000 more than the previous day.

With COVID-19 cases and percent positivity on the rise, more people are heading to testing sites, resulting in some long lines at large testing locations in Tampa Bay.

“We’ve seen an increased demand for testing over the past week or so and definitely in the last month,” said Ashley J. Johnson, the Pinellas County senior communications coordinator.

In Pinellas County, cars snaked in long lines at Tropicana Field where people had to wait an hour or more for a test.

RELATED: 6,933 Florida coronavirus cases reported Friday; 73 new deaths

“So we look at the amount of tests coming in and we try to make sure we can accommodate each day. Most of the time it’s the number of people coming in, not because we don’t have enough tests. It’s because there’s not enough hours in the day,” said Johnson.

Hillsborough County is also seeing a rise in testing demand, but not nearly enough to consider reopening sites they previously closed down.

“We always have that contingency in our back pocket,” said Jon-Paul Lavandeira, the Hillsborough County COVID Taskforce lead.

Long lines at Raymond James test site in Tampa

Lavandeira said the wider availability of tests at private companies has really helped.

“Now you have Walgreens. You have CVS. You have all kinds of minute clinics and doctor’s offices. There’s a lot more options for people,” said Lavandeira.

Hillsborough County leaders are also keeping a close eye on the transmission of the virus.

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In Pinellas County, the percent of positive cases in the last two weeks ranged from 4.2% to as high as 9.4%. And in Hillsborough County, that number ranged from 7-8.7% over a two-week period.

Public health experts say 5% positivity is the benchmark.

Testing sites are prepared for any sharp changes.

“Continue to be vigilant. Granted, we are further along than we were before, that does not mean that you can become complacent,” said Lavandeira.

Hillsborough County leaders said more people are returning to work in person or traveling for the holidays, so they recommend you know what kind of test you would need for that, whether it’s the rapid test or regular PCR test. Either way, testing sites have both on hand to let you know your results.

You can visit www.hcflgov.net/staysafe for testing sites and COVID-19 information in Hillsborough County. For Pinellas Count, visit covid19.pinellascounty.org

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 covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know

AROUND THE WORLD: CoronavirusNOW.com

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