TAMPA, Fla — When it comes to COVID-19 testing, over the last few months, we've watched people wait.
"I've been watching the lines grow for the past few weeks," said Sheri Henderson on December 28.
And that waiting hasn't stopped at free test sites But it's happening as people wait for tests in stores or online. At a time when people are needing those tests more than ever, we're learning that some simply can't afford to wait or pay.
"Particularly for individuals who are already at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum and who are traditionally working two and three jobs that are going to prevent them from being able to access traditional hour testing centers," said Florida Gulf Coast University Social Work Professor, Thomas Felke.
He adds that the disparities in being able to access tests are connected to larger healthcare gaps for this group.
"It really does go back to the larger issue of health access and health equity," said Felke.
In order to close those gaps, Felke says area health officials will have to think beyond the traditional testing sites being offered.
"So maybe that is going to take the perspective of maybe looking at how to we get pop-up centers in?" he said.
At a federal level, the Biden administration is working to close those gaps, by promising to distribute 500 million free tests. It also asked insurance providers to help cover the costs of at-home testing.
But longer-term, FGCU economist Victor Claar says employers will likely also have to get involved, by offering paid time off or other incentives for testing.
"If there's one thing employers can do, it's find ways to be flexible and make work, work in maybe ways they haven't maybe haven't had to before," said Claar.