Phone system glitches mire first day of open COVID-19 testing in Hillsborough

For the first time Tuesday, free COVID-19 testing was offered by Hillsborough County to anyone who wanted one. But getting a test proved to be easier said than done.

“It’s available if they feel the need or desire or just put the doubt to rest in their mind,” said Jon-Paul Lavandeira, of Hillsborough County Code Enforcement, who supervises the county’s testing sites.

At those sites, making an appointment ahead of showing up is highly encouraged. But many who called the county Tuesday for an appointment couldn’t reach anyone on the other end.

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FOX 13's Lloyd Sowers tried to call but got busy signals several times. After reaching the right branch of the phone tree, he heard a recording that said “We’re sorry. An application error has occurred. Goodbye.”

At least a dozen attempts to reach a county operator were unsuccessful.

Jennifer Hall, a county customer service supervisor, said call centers were overwhelmed because they were also answering calls about the county’s rent and mortgage assistance program.

“There are going to be some bumps in the road,” said Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Les Miller. “This is unprecedented times. We have never had to deal with anything like this in our lives, and we are trying our best to meet the needs of everyone in Hillsborough county.”

Hall says a telecom vendor will make technical improvements overnight and the system should work better on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the county says it hopes to ramp up its testing, which is currently at about 500 per day. Lavandeira said the county has the supplies to test thousands per day, but did not say exactly how many test kits are available in the county.

There are nearly 1.5 million Hillsborough County residents and only about 20,000 have currently been tested for COVID-19. State or county leaders did not say how many tests were now available in Hillsborough County.

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 Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know


Map of known COVID-19 cases:

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