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Hillsborough, Pinellas Counties asking state to send healthcare workers for COVID-19 test sites

Posted at 5:23 PM, Jun 26, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. — After weeks of dropped calls during scheduling, and lack of testing availability, Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties are asking the state to step in to help.

“We waited 30 minutes, I actually even drove around trying to figure out, well maybe I have the wrong location,” said Jackie Hall, who has been trying to schedule a COVID-19 test for her husband for days.

Turns out, Jackie Hall and her husband were in the right place, but this morning at the Plant City test site, there were no healthcare workers.

“For us to get an appointment at a location and not a soul there, it was very upsetting,” said Jackie.

She, like many others in Hillsborough County, has spent hours trying to make an appointment, and this week, the county made some changes to help out.

They’ve now got a call center staffed with around 80 to 100 agents, directly handling COVID-19 scheduling. As a result, their wait times are down significantly.

“By midday [Thursday] we were down to 4-7 calls waiting in queue at a time, and the average wait time for the day was around 1 minute and 30 seconds,” said Jennifer Hall, the COVID-19 Call Center Manager for Hillsborough County.

Their scheduling availability is also opening up, as the state prepares to send workers to the Raymond James test site starting next Tuesday, June 30, to increase their test capacity from 1,000 tests a week to 1,000 tests a day, five days a week.

The Raymond James test site will be open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for next week, due to the Fourth of July holiday, the test site will be open Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Pinellas County is also hoping the state can help them out.

“We have people going and waiting in line 2 or 3 hours then to be told they’d exhausted all the tests for the day,” said Barry Burton, Pinellas County Administrator.

He says they’ve got test kits, but they need more healthcare workers.

Currently testing locations require hospital staff to work additional shifts at the test sites, and they’re getting overrun.

“I ask to add these test sites, and then I say ‘hey, can you add weekend hours or evening hours,’ there’s a system capacity issue,” said Burton.

They’re hoping the Governor’s Office will send some extra hands to help out.

Here are the ways you can schedule a test in Hillsborough County:

Here are the ways you can schedule a test in Pinellas County:

  • Schedule a test at a BayCare test site by clicking here.
  • Schedule a test at Community Health Centers of Pinellas Inc. by clicking here.
  • Schedule a test at a Department of Health test site by clicking here.