Where to get a COVID-19 test in the Tampa Bay area ahead of holiday gatherings

Posted at 5:28 PM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 18:36:41-05

With the surge of the omicron variant, people are taking extra precautions as they gather in person for the holidays.

Hillsborough County said it saw 2,691 people get tested over the last three days at its West Tampa Community Resource Center site located on 2103 N. Rome Avenue, which requires no appointment to get tested and is free of charge.

Pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens also provide free COVID-19 testing, but you will need to schedule an appointment online. The pharmacies offer different tests, depending on how soon you need to get your results back.

The Florida Department of Health has free COVID-19 testing sites throughout the state. Visit the Florida Department of Health website to find one near you.

Polk County has several locations including the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.

“The only day that all sites are closed is Christmas day, every other day, at least there’s one site in Polk County that’s open,” said Pamela Acosta-Torres, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health in Polk County.

All of these testing locations will ask for your insurance and if you don’t have insurance, there is still no fee.

Experts say if you plan to get tested for COVID-19 ahead of seeing family, do it as close as possible to the time of your visit. Getting a rapid at-home COVID test is an easy option.

“If you’re going to have somebody that’s vulnerable, like I have a 97-year-old mother-in-law, we're going to test everybody in the household with a rapid antigen test on Christmas morning,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, Distinguished Professor at USF.

Walgreens is limiting purchases of at-home COVID tests to four per customer as demand for tests grew ahead of the holidays.

AAA says nearly 305,000 Floridians will fly between December 23 and January 2. Experts say if you're traveling make sure you have a good mask, like a KN95.

“They’re widely available. You can buy them off the internet, off Amazon pretty easily as well. N95’s are still a little hard to get because they’re being prioritized for the healthcare workers,” said Dr. Unnasch.

Dr. Unnasch said those who are fully vaccinated and have gotten their booster shot have the highest level of protection.