Tampa Bay counties reopen COVID-19 testing sites

Investigations

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – With the delta variant of COVID-19 spreading in Florida, there’s another rush to get tested.

8 On Your Side exposed the demand for free COVID-19 tests last week. Since our reports, some counties have re-opened their test sites.

More than a year and a half into this pandemic, it’s drive-thru deja vu. From Miami to Orlando to Tampa, once again, Floridians are lining up to get a COVID-19 test – and for good reason.

At the Palm River Park Community Center in Hillsborough, 20% of rapid tests are coming back positive.

Those interviewed by 8 On Your Side Monday tested negative for the virus.

“I got a call from my principal, I work at a school,” said Jarrett Bassett. “He says someone… a teacher caught COVID.”

Another woman, who only wanted to be identified by her first name Terri, said her 83-year-old mother is hospitalized with the virus at Tampa General.

“They say that she’s doing good,” said Terri. “When she went in, she was unresponsive and that’s changed.”

The increased demand could be partly due to the start of the school year. In less than 24 hours, classes will be in session for most Tampa Bay students.

Katja Miller is with the Hillsborough County Office of Emergency Management.

“We’re seeing a lot of children with their families,” Miller said.

This weekend, the two county-run sites were packed.

She says many had symptoms and they were seeking a free test without an appointment.

The county expected about a thousand people this weekend but in the end, the crowd was more than double that.

“We had deep lines, about 175 to 200 people at a time,” she said.

Below is a list of county and Florida Department of Health-operated test sites across Tampa Bay. Please visit the FDOH’s website for your county to get the latest information regarding hours of operation.

  • Hillsborough County:
    • Palm River Park Community Center, 725 S. 58th St., Tampa
    • Code Enforcement Complex, 1101 E. 139th Ave., Tampa
  • Manatee County:
    • Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd, Palmetto
    • Palmetto Bus Station, 1802 8th Avenue West, Palmetto
  • Sarasota County:
    • Former Sarasota Kennel Club, 5400 Old Bradenton Rd, Sarasota
    • Robert L. Taylor Community Complex Parking Lot, 1845 34th Street, Sarasota
    • Dallas White Park, 5900 Greenwood Ave, North Port
  • Pinellas County:
    • Center for Health Equity, 2333 34th St. S., St. Petersburg
  • Polk County:
    • Lake Ariana Clubhouse, 321 Ramsgate Road, Auburndale
  • Pasco County:
    • Gulf View Square Mall, 9409 US-19, Port Richey

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis told investigator Mahsa Saeidi that counties have received huge amounts of money from the federal government and there’s no reason to relaunch state testing sites.

“At this time, the county is working with a private vendor,” Miller said. “That vendor is able to accommodate the tests and also the staffing, so we’re able to operate any testing sites that’s needed.”

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