PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County, state and local leaders opened a free COVID-19 test site inside the Mahaffey Theater Parking Garage on Wednesday, July 8.
The testing site opened Wednesday at 11 a.m. to the public at the Duke Energy for the Arts Mahaffey Theater, and organizers say volunteers are needed to help support registration and traffic control.
Volunteers are NEEDED to help people get free testing at the Mahaffey Theater, 400 First St S, St. Pete. Assistance is needed to help support registration and traffic control. Shifts of 3-4 hours are available.— Pinellas Volunteers (@VolInPinellas) July 9, 2020
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 727-464-3815. pic.twitter.com/CC2QjHrE4f
The first cars started lining up at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to ensure they could receive a free test.
The site will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays. You don't have to be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to get tested or need a doctor's note. It will be first-come, first-served.
There is a limit of four people per vehicle, and if you live outside of Pinellas County you can still visit the site for a test.
Organizers at the site expect to administer 1,200 tests a day. They tell ABC Action News that they stocked up on thousands of tests to meet the large demand.
On Wednesday, a line of cars could be seen snaked around the theatre, Dali Museum and Albert Whitted Airport.
One man waiting to get tested said the process of getting through the line took 1.5 hours.
Tom Iovino, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of health in Pinellas County says the testing is essential especially to help those who are asymptomatic know if they have the virus. “That way, they can make informed decisions about their future. It really shows the demand, shows the interest. People are interested in stopping the spread of this virus," he added.
Raoul Karvel made sure he was one of the first in line. “I’m traveling soon to my hometown of Aruba so I just wanted to make sure that I am negative,” he said.
Karvel says he also took an at home test but felt more comfortable with the results coming from trained medical professionals.
Results are expected to take 2-5 days.
Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice says county leaders are working with the state to ensure ample supply kits are available. “This is a massive site, more staffing, more tests available. We want people to come take advantage of it. It’s really important. Hopefully the supply will meet the demand," he elaborated.
The demand for testing recently caused issues across the Tampa Bay area. A Baycare site at Tropicana Field closed just an hour after opening last month when organizers ran out of supplies. A similar problem in Sarasota and Manatee counties also forced organizers to close a test site early. In Hillsborough County, appointments for tests booked up weeks in advance.
The Mahaffey is the first site open at night and on weekends, so while organizers expect big crowds, they say they’re working with state leaders to secure test kits.
County, state and city leaders that partnered up for the opening of the new testing site include Pinellas County Government, State of Florida Emergency Management, Department of Health Pinellas, City of St. Petersburg and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.