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COVID-19 testing sites stay busy as hospitalizations tick up

Posted at 4:44 PM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 18:37:52-05

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — COVID-19 testing sites are staying busy on both sides of the Bay as nurses rush to test thousands of people in our community. It comes as hospitals prepare for another uptick in patients being admitted for COVID-19 symptoms.

Pinellas County has recently averaged around 1,000 tests a day at the Tropicana Field site alone, but now you have an additional option to get one of the free nasal swabs.

The test site at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater is now expanding to 5 days a week Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., which is up from the previous 3 days a week.

“It should take some of the pressure off the Tropicana Field Site,” Josh Boatwright in Pinellas County’s Communications team explained.

It comes as local hospitals and hospitals statewide see an uptick in COVID-19 admissions.

“Everybody is watching it with a lot of apprehensions because hospitalizations are up,” Justin Senior, the CEO of Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida added.

Senior heads up an alliance of 14 hospital systems statewide including Tampa General, Johns Hopkins All Children’s and Orlando Health, which just bought Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.

“We definitely have seen an uptick. It’s nowhere near what it was back in July when it got close to 10,000 hospitalizations statewide, but it’s still been steadily increasing and that does put a lot of stress on systems," he said.

Right now, more than 4,200 people are in Florida hospitals being treated for COVID-19. That’s up from 3,100 two weeks ago and nearly double what we saw in late September/early October. While senior says our hospitals have plenty of bed space, he worries more about the doctors and nurses we all rely on.

“One of the issues that they deal with when there is broad community spread is that yes they’ve got 1,000 or 1,500 beds but they can’t staff those beds if the staff is going home and catching COVID in the community,” he explained.

Senior says hospitals aren’t yet at a point where they need to scale back planned procedures again. However, local leaders warn if we don’t all do our part this holiday season, a second surge could be inevitable.

“There’s a lot of choices you’re going to have to make and you need to consider the exposure you’re going to have to people and where are the folks you’re gathering with, how many people they’re seeing on a daily basis. The more interactions outside your household the higher risk level,” Boatwright added.