MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Manatee County Government is giving away thousands of free at-home COVID-19 testing kits at county libraries starting Wednesday morning.

As the omicron wave continues to surge, 7,500 testing kits are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Four test kits per person will be available at the front desk area of county libraries.

The rapid COVID-19 test kits, which have been provided by the Florida Department of Health, will be available at all branches when they open. Palmetto and South Manatee branches open at 9 a.m. The Braden River Branch opens at 10 a.m. The Downtown Central, Island and Rocky Bluff branches open at noon.

On Monday, the Public Safety Department said 18% of tests were positive last week. CDC data shows Manatee County has 2844 new cases, 46 new hospital admissions and less than 10 deaths.


“Manatee County is working hard to make sure all residents have access to COVID-19 tests,” said Manatee County Public Safety Director Jacob Saur. “I want to remind everyone that the best way to continue to protect yourself from COVID-19 is by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask when you’re unable to social distance.”

People began lining up outside the Palmetto branch two hours before it opened for the day.

“We do know the interest is high,” said Bill Logan, Manatee County’s Information Outreach Manager. “We have prepped the staff, they know that these are coming, they do know folks will be able to get them curbside if they need them, so it’s just going to be a case by case basis.”

Within 30 minutes of opening, the Palmetto Branch gave out its 960 kit allotment. The hundreds of people who were in line at the time, we’re turned away. Steve Nichols and Crystal Cook were lucky enough to get some.

“You can’t find them they’re not on the shelves they’re not available anywhere,” said Cook. “We definitely made an effort to get here early so we can ensure getting them.”

Logan said the county is making sure residents and visitors have access to tests outside of the testing locations.

“It is a big need people need for people to know whether or not they have this virus so being able to provide the test either at the convention center or with these at home test is really a benefit first.”

Manatee County offers free testing at the Bradenton Area Convention Center (1 Haben Boulevard
Palmetto, FL 34221) which is open daily from 7am – 7pm. Rapid and PCR testing is available for free. It’s a walk-up site and no appointment is needed.

Manatee County students return back to class from winter break on Thursday. Earlier this week, a memo was sent out to 6,000 school district employees and parents announcing a free COVID-19 PCR rapid tests will be available at Marble Park in Bradenton (3675 53rd Avenue East)

This site is only open for School District employees, students and Manatee County Government Employees. School or district ID must be shown to be tested. The site is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

MCR Health School-Based Health Clinics at Manatee Elementary and Southeast High School also offer COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and booster shots by appointment daily to district employees, Monday through Friday.