COVID-19 testing booms after Christmas; Tampa Bay sees long lines, wait times

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A surge in COVID-19 cases has led to an overwhelming need for testing and a shortage of tests.

Across Tampa Bay, there are long lines of people waiting to get tested.

Viewers told WFLA they waited four hours to get tested in Sarasota on Monday. Eagle 8 flew over the testing site at Ed Smith Stadium and saw a long line of cars waiting to enter the parking lot.

About 90 minutes before it opened on Tuesday, people began lining up outside the West Tampa COVID-19 testing site, 2103 N. Rome Avenue, in hopes of beating the crowds seen on previous days.

“It was wrapping all the way around the building,” said Kenneth Carter who got tested. “It was long but it seems like it’s moving pretty good.”

Some in line told News Channel 8 they are getting tested because they were exposed or gathered with family for the Christmas holiday.

“You know we had people at our house, family,” said Larry Landers, who got tested. “We’ll be having another get together this coming New Year’s weekend, so we just want to make sure we’re clean and good to go. Hoping that all our guests do the same.”

Others said they were showing symptoms.

The testing site has seen an increased demand for testing as the highly transmissible omicron variant spreads like wildfire. Hillsborough County said nearly 2,394 COVID-19 tests were performed at the site on Sunday in addition to 41 antibody therapy treatments and 51 vaccinations.

The Biden administration is facing criticism over a nationwide testing shortage. The White House promised to buy 500 million COVID-19 tests and distribute them free of charge to people to use at home.

“Look, there is no federal solution,” Biden said during a recent meeting with the National Governors Association. “This gets solved at the state level.”

Tampa Bay area hospitals are seeing a jump in cases attributed it to omicron. Tampa General told 8 On Your Side its COVID-19 patients are having shorter stays with fewer needing intensive care.

“For admitted patients in the hospital it has really risen from a handful like 10 in the past couple of weeks we are up to about 40 to 45 and expect to see that continue to rise honestly,” said Dr. Peggy Duggan, TGH Chief Medical Officer.

TGH said it’s still too early to come to any conclusions as to exactly what this latest surge may look like for hospitals in a few weeks’ time but the hospital is preparing now.

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