LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Wrapping paper, cinnamon sugar, apple pie… and COVID-19 tests. This year, many people in the Bay area are getting a COVID-19 test before reuniting with loved ones for Christmas.
In some ways, it’s a new holiday tradition.
“It’s not quite like apple pie yet but it is what it is,” said Travis Chattin, who lives in Lakeland. “It’s our world we live in now.”
Equipped with a coveted at-home antigen test, Chattin wanted to take another test to make sure he was negative after experiencing some symptoms in the last few days.
“It’s absolutely important,” he said. “I have a family member that is immuno-compromised. He has a kidney transplant and I have three little babies — a 2 year old, a 4 year old and a 6 year old.”
A car full of vaccinated people at Lakeland’s RP Funding Center also had the same idea.
“We’re going to spend some time with some other family members that are almost in their 90’s and so, we’re all vaccinated and boosted but we don’t want them to get it,” said Robyn Ferguson, who lives in Lakeland.
They were at a Nomi Health testing site, which offers free rapid antigen and PCR tests by appointment only.
The RP Funding Center site reopens on Sunday, Dec. 26. There are several sites across Tampa Bay, including in Hernando, Sarasota and Pasco counties.
Public health officials say testing can be a crucial step in protecting others.
“Consider getting tested if you’re gonna be around someone that’s vulnerable just for an extra level of safety,” said Pamela Acosta-Torres, a spokesperson for the Fla. Dept. of Health in Polk County.
Testing has become a focal point for the Biden administration as the highly contagious omicron variant continues to spread and at-home kits are hard to find on store shelves.
President Joe Biden announced this week 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests will be made available to anyone who wants one.
“We’ll be getting this test to Americans for free and we’ll have websites where you can get them delivered to your home,” President Biden said.