Rapid COVID-19 testing begins Thursday in Tampa Bay area, offering results in minutes, not days

Rapid testing for COVID-19 is making its way to the Bay Area, delivering results in minutes rather than days. 

"We were waiting 10-14 days to get a result back before," said Dr. Nishant Anand,  Chief Medical Officer at BayCare.

Starting Thursday, BayCare will begin administering the Abbott Labs ID Now test. A positive comes in little as five minutes. A negative takes about 15 minutes.

RELATED: Hundreds tested for COVID-19 at BayCare testing site

"You take a swab and you put it in the back of the nose and you collect a sample," Anand explained. "Then, you run it on the test. Think of it like a tabletop test."

In the beginning, these rapid tests will be reserved for high-risk cases where time is of the essence, such as ICU patients, health care workers and first responders.

RELATED: Florida ramps up testing ahead of anticipated COVID-19 peak

"I think it's going to be very close to the accuracy of the others tests out there," Anand said. "But, that's one thing we are going to watch closely and we're going to continue to follow as part of what I call the validation phase right now."

Meanwhile, AdventHealth is using the Cepheid Xpert Xpress test, starting with hospitals in Tampa, Ocala and Sebring and expanding to Hardee, Pasco and Pinellas counties by the end of April. Between prep, collection and analysis, they're getting results in about 45 minutes.

"If we're able to get results to the clinicians quicker, faster, then they're able to make decisions based on where that patient needs to go," said Jose Tirado, Jr., Division Director of Laboratory Services with AdventHealth West Florida Division.

Governor DeSantis announced on Wednesday that they're distributing thousands more of these rapid tests to hospitals across the state. He calls it a game-changer.

"That is huge when you're talking about protecting the health care workforce, you're talking about conserving hospital space, you're talking about protecting seniors," DeSantis said.

More testing means more awareness and, potentially, fewer cases.

"Getting the results much quicker, we can actually start to, what we call 'bend the curve' or get fewer people to be co-infected from those individuals," Anand said.

Walgreens also expects to open 15 drive-thru rapid testing sites in seven states, including Florida. The company hasn't said yet where those sites will be.

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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