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Rise in Florida's positivity rate causes long COVID-19 testing lines in Tampa and St. Pete

Posted at 5:35 PM, Nov 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-13 20:01:24-05

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — People wanting to get tested for COVID-19 on Friday faced long lines on both sides of the bay.

The line of cars snaked around Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

The wait was upwards of two hours in both locations. Many people waited around an hour to an hour and a half, according to county leaders.

In St. Pete, cars started lining up around 7:00 a.m., an hour before the site even opened Friday.

The demand was caused by two factors: Both testing locations were shut down earlier in the week for Tropical Storm Eta and the percent positivity for COVID-19 has been on the rise in recent weeks.

Yet, Tom Iovino at the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County says it is actually a good sign.

“We’re encouraged by seeing that many people at the testing sites. It means that they’re really taking it seriously,” he elaborated.

Lines are expected to be long again on Saturday and next week.

Ashley Johnson, a senior communications coordinator for Pinellas County, recommends trying to come to the testing sites during the middle of the day.

“The middle of the day generally is the best time to visit the site around 1:00 in the afternoon, but with the storm happening this week and increased positivity, it’s possible we could see long wait times throughout the entire day.”

Health leaders recommend if you do choose to travel for the holidays, getting one of the free tests before you mingle with family members.

“Anytime we see travel we see the potential for spread so it’s really crucial people understand the risk that they face,” Iovino added.

Both Raymond James Stadium and Tropicana Field are offering two types of tests: The rapid, antigen test with results in 15 minutes and the PCR lab test.

With airlines, employers and some universities requiring COVID-19 test results, local leaders recommend finding out which type of test you need before hopping in line.

“The last thing you want to do is wait in line for an hour, get a test and realize it was the wrong test that you needed. You can ask for both a PCR and antigen test or one or the other,” Johnson explained.

The Tropicana Field COVID-19 test site is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Pinellas County residents can also get tested at The Department of Health in Pinellas County, at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. at various Community Health Centers of Pinellas locations and AFC Urgent Care, Doctor’s Urgent Care and Your Kid’s Urgent Care locations.

The Raymond James Stadium COVID-19 test site is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Hillsborough County residents can also get tested at the Suncoast Community Health Center, University of South Florida Health Therapy Building and the Lee Davis Community Resource Center.