Pinellas County residents staying on alert amid pandemic as Thanksgiving nears


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s the holiday rush residents racing to get tested for coronavirus at the Tropicana Field testing site.

A record-breaking 1,300 people went to this drive-through COVID test site Saturday with lines averaging two hours. But the Department of Health said even if your tests turned out negative, you’re not in the clear this Thanksgiving.

Hillsborough County offers a complete list of testing locations on its website. Pinellas County also has a number of options for free testing locations, but read each carefully as some may require insurance.

“It’s definitely certainly a nervewracking time,” Eric Radefeld who lives in St. Pete with his wife and their new 3-month-old. Radefeld says living amid the pandemic has been challenging. “It’s been terrible. My wife was pregnant through the outbreak, not being able to experience his first Thanksgiving, first Christmas with family and grandparents has been an adjustment, something we’re taking in stride,” Radefeld said.

A Pinellas County Emergency Management spokesman said health officials around the country are concerned about COVID spread.

“We’re still dealing with COVID-19 and starting to see a gradual uptick locally,” said Josh Boatwright.

Boatwright says you can’t rely on test results to assure you’re safe on the holiday.

“It’s been widely reported that the rapid test is a good indicator but it’s not as accurate as a PCR (traditional) test,” Boatwright said. “If you get your results in a couple of days and you’ve been out seeing other people you could still be exposed and could be a risk to others even if you’re not showing symptoms yet,” Boatwright said.

So even if your tests come back negative you may not be in the clear the day-of the holiday.

A spokesman with the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County said now is not the time for COVID fatigue.

“Stay socially distanced, protect yourself…, whether you like them a party or cute, where these things,” said Maggie Hall pointing to her masks.

Hall said if everyone can stay safe now, it can hopefully create better days ahead.

“I think everyone is going to be happy to see 2021 because this has been an unprecedented year,” Hall said.

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