Christmas COVID infections overwhelming Tampa testing sites

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — It turns out this holiday’s hottest items were COVID tests. The omicron variant continued to ramp up ahead of the holidays this year with health officials reporting Florida’s infection rate well past record highs.

Melody Engle told 8 On Your Side she spent six hours on Sunday trying to find a testing site or an at-home test. “Everywhere I go they’re out. I spent three hours on the phone. I tried to register on websites that failed.”

She drove all the way from Tarpon Springs to stand in the long line at the West Tampa Community Resource Center on Rome Avenue, after several attempts to find tests near her.

“For the country with allegedly the best health care in the world, here you are and you can’t even find out if you have COVID. It’s tragic,” Engle said.

President Joe Biden recently announced a plan to send out 50 million rapid at home tests so more people can have access to a free option. Benjamin Sanford said he wants to see more county sites as well.

On Monday, Biden is expected to join the White House COVID-19 Response Team’s regular call with the National Governors Association to discuss his Administration’s response to the Omicron variant and to hear from the Governors on the needs in their States.

“I think it would be smart to have testing sites on every corner that we can,” he said.

Sanford added the crowd at one Tampa center almost turned him away. He waited in line for 40 minutes.

“It be a lot easier to just drive back home and wait it out but I would definitely like to know so that I can keep people safe,” Sanford Sanford. “This location on N Rome Avenue is the only Hillsborough County testing site.”

Despite the high public demand for tests, the Biden Administration said it will be several more weeks until the test kits are available for shipping. The administration is still working on details for how the program will work.

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