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Increase in COVID-19 testing demand leads to changes in Hillsborough County

Posted at 5:06 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 04:58:37-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Nick Reale and his wife Shelly are desperate to get checked for COVID-19.

“That there’s plenty of testing available is a lie. I think our Governor is out of his depth,” Nick said.

They are concerned after their son tested positive.

“We were with him Thursday night for an early Father’s Day. Completely asymptotic. Saturday night he had his first symptom. And by Sunday morning he was at St. Joe’s with pneumonia and testing positive for COVID-19,” said Nick.

The Reales tried to go to the Baycare testing site at Carillon in Pinellas County, but it was shut down Monday because long car lines were interfering with businesses.

Baycare says demand at that location had more than tripled. They say they are working on another location in Pinellas County and hope to have an announcement this week.

Nick and his wife also came up empty when they tried to get tested at their local urgent care.

“My wife and I both have existing medical conditions. I’m lucky enough to have one kidney and she’s got a cardiac issue so we wanted to try and get ahead of the curve. It’s not happening,” he said.

In Hillsborough County, officials say they’ve gone from about 1,200 tests a day at the beginning of June to about 2,400 tests a day.

People trying to register over the phone are complaining they can’t get through. Others are just showing up to testing sites without registering.

“They are rushing the gates meanwhile the person that did the right thing and called the call center that made an appointment is crowded out,” said Jon-Paul Lavandeira, Hillsborough County’s Task Force Lead for COVID-19 testing sites.

Officials are now offering a new toll-free number for coronavirus testing appointments only.

The new number to call to make an appointment at any of the county’s seven COVID-19 testing sites is (888) 513-6321.

Call center hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Hillsborough County is also adding online registration beginning Thursday.

Meanwhile, Nick is hopeful is son recovers quickly. And the rest of the family can get tested soon.