Tampa International Airport continues to test around 100 passengers daily with its on-site COVID-19 testing service, despite only seeing about half of its usual holiday travelers this year.
The tests, which are not rapid tests, are typically administered days before passengers are set to travel.
The airport had 30,654 passengers come through on Christmas Eve, and 21,418 passengers on Christmas Day, according to a spokesperson for TPA. This is about half the number of travelers that the airport saw around this time last year, she said.
Since the start of the on-site BayCare testing program on Oct. 1, more than 11,500 travelers have been tested.
The airport tested 281 passengers on Christmas Eve. The airport’s testing site was closed on Christmas, but has continued to see more than a hundred test-takers each day, according to the health care system.
However, although testing is encouraged, the airport does not get involved with contacting patients with the testing results, the spokesperson said. Instead, if a passenger tests positive he or she is advised by BayCare and/or the Florida Department of Health not to travel. Under law, BayCare is required to report all positive results to the FDOH.
According to the TPA spokesperson, the airport has heard anecdotes of passengers canceling flights due to an unexpected positive test. And, in some cases, the CDC may get involved in contacting an airline or intercepting a traveler.
Some airlines or government officials require documented testing results for travel or upon arrival. Most destinations that have COVID-19 restrictions require a negative test result within 72 hours of travel to exempt the traveler from a mandatory quarantine.
The testing site, which is located at the main terminal of the airport, offers two tests: the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test and the rapid antigen test.
The PCR test is the most popular among travelers, and gives results within 24 to 48 hours. The airport recommends travelers seek a PCR test three days before their departure in order to receive results in time. The rapid antigen test takes about 15 minutes for results.
At the airport testing site, BayCare charges $150 for PCR test and $60 for the rapid antigen test.
When the program launched, TPA became the first airport in the country to offer two types of FDA-approved COVID-19 tests for all departing and arriving passengers.
Testing services are offered on a walk-in basis, seven days a week. On Monday through Friday, the testing site is open from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday and Sunday.