COVID testing, vaccine sites consolidating in Tampa Bay: Good sign to some, worrisome to others

Coronavirus

LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) – There will soon be fewer state-run sites for people in Tampa Bay to get a COCID-19 vaccine or COVID test. As some of the Tampa Bay area sites begin consolidating, some people are worried it’s too soon.

State Department of Health officials tell 8 On Your Side about 2,000 people can get vaccinated daily at the state-run vaccination site in Largo. But they said with small lines and no crowds, there’s nowhere near that number showing up.

“I think a lot of people are going to their local pharmacies, Publix’s, Winn-Dixies and getting their shots there,” Public Information Officer Tom Iovino with the Florida Dept. of Health in Pinellas County said.

State health officials said the large state-run COVID vaccination sites were never meant to be permanent solutions so, as they see demand decreasing, they’re condensing.

But some residents like Priscilla Velasco, who just got her second COVID shot at the Largo site on Monday, believe it’s too soon.

“People don’t want to go to the doctor’s office, they’re scared to go anywhere,” Velasco said.

Health officials said the Pinellas Park vaccination site closed last Friday for first shots and the Largo site will follow suit on May 7. However, the Center for Health Equity in St. Pete will stay open full-time.

Both the Pinellas Park and Largo vaccination sites will remain open for about a month to give those who have already got their first shot the second round of shots.

Tom Hurter, who also got his second shot on Monday, said he thinks it’s good news.

“I think it’s probably a good sign, I think Florida and Pinellas County have done a good job getting people in and getting them vaccinated,” Hurter said.

Testing sites are condensing too. DOH officials said the Tropicana Field testing site in St. Pete is shutting down in about two weeks on Saturday, May 15. The Ruth Eckerd Hall site in Clearwater will remain open.

Iovino told 8 On Your Side that about 1,500 people can get tested at the Trop daily. But the online COVID-19 Dashboard revealed the number of people actually getting tested daily hasn’t reached a thousand for weeks.

Screenshot of the amount of people who recently got Covid tests done at The Tropicana Field.

“It’s a matter of staff efficiency. Large areas can handle a lot of traffic. It’s a little more confined at Ruth Eckerd Hall so we can keep the people more concentrated,” Iovino said.

Velasco is concerned with the consolidations.

“Everything is open, why not vaccination spots? The beach, clubs, bars – why not everything that is going to help everyone profit? Everyone needs to be safe out here,” Velasco said.

State officials said to make a COVID vaccination appointment, you can go to the CDR Maguire Patient Portal website. You can also find a COVID-19 vaccination near you at a clinic or pharmacy.

State officials have posted a list online of all the COVID-19 testing sites available in Pinellas County.

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