COVID-19 is running rampant once again and many are debating whether they should have their traditional holiday celebrations. Many eager to do so are flocking to testing locations to ensure they won’t be spreading the virus at their gatherings
COVID-19 cases are on the rise once again.
The state now has nearly 897,323 infections after adding 7,459 coronavirus cases Tuesday. This has led to an increase in the weekly case average. Now Florida has approximately 6,450 new cases every day. This is back to the same level we were at around mid-August.
In Tampa Bay, there were 998 COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths reported Tuesday. The breakdown of cases in Tampa Bay-area counties since the start of the pandemic is as follows: Hillsborough has 53,432 cases, Pinellas has 29,509 cases, Polk has 25,531 cases, Manatee has 15,040 cases, Pasco has 12,771 cases, Hernando has 4,312 cases and Citrus has 4,019 cases.
On Tuesday, it was also announced there were 86 new coronavirus-related deaths across the entire state, which brings the weekly death average up to around 57 people per day. Since the start of the pandemic, 17,861 people have died from COVID-19 complications in Florida.
To break that further down, county by county, Polk added the most deaths with the announcement that six people had died from COVID-19. Pinellas was next with four deaths and Citrus and Pasco each added one death. Hillsborough, Hernando and Manatee counties did not have any new deaths reported.
To put those numbers in perspective, Florida is sporting a 9 percent weekly positivity rate, according to Johns Hopkins University. The World Health Organization recommends a rate of 5 percent or below before communities begin reopening and going along like normal. In October it appeared as if Florida was on its way toward recovery as it finally met that 5 percent mark.
Then everything began to shift and soon the positivity rate began to rapidly climb. Now Florida has the third-highest rate of COVID-19 infections in the U.S. Yet everything so far remains open and restaurants are operating at full capacity despite the fact that governors across the country have once again began shutting communities down in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.
For those who have attempted to get tested recently, the news that testing sites are filling up fast comes as little surprise. With Thanksgiving just around the corner many are flocking to testing sites in hopes of finding out if they are safe to travel to visit loved ones in the next few weeks.
And it’s a tricky business.
If you pay for a rapid response test — most of which average around $140 — you can find out immediately. If you wait until the last minute to get your test before hitting the road, this is essentially the only way to quickly know where you stand. Going to locations that charge for the test, many of which don’t take insurance, means you’re almost guaranteed to get an appointment.
Most, however, don’t want to pay that hefty fee and thus turn to the free county and state testing sites, several of whom also offer rapid tests and PCR tests. Tropicana Field reached its total testing capacity just before 2 p.m. on Tuesday. Other sites are begging those who wish to test to get appointments first so they can better manage who is coming.
If you do a standard nasal swab it can take five days or more for results to return at current testing capacity.
There were 3,250 tests complete from Monday to Friday across Hillsborough County, which is approximately a thousand more tests than the county had in that time period the week before. As those numbers rise, there is a chance results will start to take slightly longer to get back.
When you begin to factor in the time it will take to hear whether you are positive, it becomes clear most have to get tested this week and then self-quarantine until they know for sure if they are in the clear.
If you wish to schedule an appointment you can do so at hillsboroughcounty.org. The only Hillsborough County site currently in operation is at Suncoast Community Health Center, 313 S. Lakewood Drive, Brandon. The state is supporting and operating testing sites at Lee Davis Community Resource Center, 3402 N. 22nd St., Tampa and Raymond James Stadium, 4201 N Dale Mabry Hwy. However, neither of the state locations have appointments available as they operate under a first-come, first-serve basis.
You can also go to a BayCare testing site, a CVS location, MedExpress or use a home test kit option. All of those are explored in detail on the county’s website.