With low demand, many government-run COVID-19 test sites are closing

Health department officials say a drop in demand for COVID-19 testing has led many state and county-run testing locations to close after months of operations. On Saturday, all state-run testing sites in Florida will officially close.

Moving forward, officials said local pharmacies, doctors’ offices, county health facilities and urgent care locations will take over testing. Many pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens, provide COVID-19 testing free of charge.

Hillsborough emergency officials will continue to operate their test site at the Lee Davis Community Resource Center through June 30. It will very likely be the last government-run testing site in the entire Bay Area.

Hillsborough County emergency officials say demand for testing hit its peak in the week leading up to Christmas with a daily average of 2,160 tests administered. More recently, however, officials say the daily average has fallen to just over 622 tests.

RELATED: COVID-19 positivity higher in Hillsborough than neighboring counties, data shows

Many counties have already permanently closed their state and county-run test sites.

Pinellas County’s last remaining state-operated test site at Tropicana Field closed earlier this month.

Pasco health officials have made the same decision to shut down many of its government-run testing sites. Monday will be the last day for testing at Gulf View Mall.

Manatee and Sarasota counties have also begun closing testing sites due to lack of demand.

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Infection rates across the state have finally fallen below 5%, although some areas, like Hillsborough County, remain above the state average.

"We’re not in the clear. It’s not like we’re only seeing a few cases a day. We are still seeing cases emerge. We still have a high proportion of our population that is still unvaccinated, not just in Hillsborough County but throughout the state, and we still have people dying from COVID every day," said Dr. Jason Salemi, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at USF Public Health. "So yes, it underscores: please go out and get vaccinated but also use caution, especially if you’re one of those unvaccinated individuals."

According to state data, about 37% of Floridians are fully vaccinated and 47% have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Despite ample supply and consistent pleas from public health experts on the importance of vaccines, demand for the shot has frustratingly declined as well.

Due to decreased demand, some federal-run vaccine drive-through sites are set to close as well. On Wednesday, May 26, the FEMA site at the Tampa Dog Track will cease operations. Over in Orlando, its FEMA site will close Tuesday, May 25.