Tampa Fire Chief warns ‘everybody’s going to get it’ as Tampa opens new COVID-19 test site
Tampa Fire Chief Barbara Tripp

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Testing demand has skyrocketed as the omicron variant leads to record-breaking case positivity.

Tampa opened a new COVID-19 test site at Al Barnes Park Tuesday morning to meet increasing testing demand amid omicron variant-led surges in COVID-19 positivity.

Most city and county-run sites began to close during the latter half of 2021 as cases began to drop. However, holiday travel and gatherings, combined with the highly transmissible omicron variant led to new record-setting numbers. On Monday, the Miami Herald reported 85,707 cases and 61 new deaths. That’s the largest multi-day increase in cases since the pandemic began.

“The omicron is a very contagious variant that’s out there,” Tampa Fire Chief Barbara Tripp said Monday. “The likelihood is that everyone’s gonna get it.”

The rise in cases has also led to a rise in testing demand. The City of Tampa reported Monday it had tested more than 5,500 people at the Al Lopez Park site since it opened Friday. Tripp said wait times at the site ranged from 40 minutes to three hours. And at least three people were treated for medical emergencies. Tripp said long waits and heat were to blame.

Tripp said both sites will have rescue cars on standby in case of other medical emergencies.

Both the Al Lopez site and the Al Barnes site will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Al Lopez site is a walk-up site, while the Al Barnes site is drive-thru.

Tripp said the city has plenty of tests, but encouraged anyone vaccinated and boostered who aren’t experiencing symptoms to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for exposure rather than run out for a test.

“(If) you went through your series of getting your vaccinations and you’ve been boostered and you’re asymptomatic, there’s no need to get a test,” she said. “Just follow CDC guidelines when it comes to exposure and protecting yourself and your family as well as the community.”

With high demand, the city said it wants to be as responsible as possible with the supply it has. The CDC recommends people who have been boostered “wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure. For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure.” The CDC does not recommend quarantining without a positive test result.

The Al Lopez Park walk up site is located at 4602 N. Himes Ave. The Al Barnes Park site is at 3101 E. 21st Ave. Both sites offer PCR and rapid antigen tests. Both sites also offer pre-registration, but it is not required.

Hillsborough County also has sites available. COVID testing at city and county sites is free with or without insurance.

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected].

One comment

  • Daisy Daisy

    January 4, 2022 at 10:13 pm

    Most people I know got Covid, the original and they got over it so the new variants are even lighter, I’m not concerned. Take all the immune boosting stuff recommended and beat it like the 99% did. No biggy. I immune compromised then stay home awhile, allow the 99% to do their thing.

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