New COVID-19 testing locations opening around Tampa Bay area
Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, along with Tampa, are opening a number of new testing sites — including temporary locations in Tampa and Plant City that will be open for the New Year's weekend.
With a dramatically increasing number of COVID-19 cases because of the omicron variant, new free testing sites are opening around the greater Tampa Bay region.
Beginning Dec. 30, Hillsborough County will offer testing at the Progress Village Park site at 8701 Progress Blvd. in Tampa from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. It will only offer testing.
The other county-run site, the West Tampa Community Resource Center at 2103 N. Rome Ave. in Tampa, remains open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week for testing, vaccinations, booster shots, and monoclonal antibody therapy.
Starting Jan. 4, Tampa is opening a new drive-thru testing site at Al Barnes Park near Ybor City. It comes after an existing site saw long waits and a few medical emergencies last week.
Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Barbara Tripp says the site should ease some of the pressure on the walk-up location at Al Lopez Park, where three people collapsed while waiting in line on New Years' Eve. But she still expects high demand at both locations.
Tripp is asking people who have received booster shots and don't have COVID symptoms to hold off on visiting the site even if they think they've been exposed to the virus.
She expects the new site to test about 1,100 people a day.
The city of Tampa, in partnership with the Florida Department of Health, will reopen the testing site at Al Lopez Park on Dec. 31. It will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week until further notice, including New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
Those getting tested will enter on the North side of Al Lopez Park, pull into the parking lot and then walk up to the HUNT center to complete the test.
At a press conference announcing the new sites, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor urged people not to go to local emergency rooms for testing — saying many are being overwhelmed by an increase in patients.
"Emergency rooms are there for individuals who are seriously injured or seriously ill," said Castor. "If you have symptoms of COVID-19 that are mild, you're just symptomatic, you can go to one of the urgent care facilities for BayCare, for AdventHealth, and Tampa General Hospital."
Castor pointed out that two weeks ago, AdventHealth had 60 people admitted with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19; on Wednesday, that number had ballooned to 214.
The average positivity rate over the past seven days for Hillsborough County is 13.7 percent. In addition, 65.7 percent of Hillsborough County residents ages five and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County is opening a COVID-19 testing site on Jan. 6 at 7150 114th Ave. in Largo to meet additional demand.
It will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.
It joins another site at the Center for Health Equity at 2333 34th St S. in St. Petersburg, which is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Largo site will be closed Friday and Saturday for the New Year's holiday, while the St. Petersburg site will be closed Friday through Sunday.
No appointments will be necessary at any of these sites.
We have more information on other sites around the greater Tampa Bay region here.
Health News Florida reporter Stephanie Colombini contributed to this report.