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Another COVID-19 testing site is opening in Tampa as cases surge around the state

Tampa Fire Chief Barbara Tripp stands in front of a mic stand at a park
Stephanie Colombini
WUSF Public Media
Tampa Fire Chief Barbara Tripp expects the new site to test about 1,100 people a day.

Officials say the site will test everyone in need, but are asking people who received booster shots and don't have symptoms to hold off on coming to the site to ensure there are enough tests for those who are sick.

Tampa officials are opening a new drive-thru coronavirus testing site Tuesday at Al Barnes Park near Ybor City as cases surge around the state. It comes after an existing site saw long waits and a few medical emergencies over the weekend.

Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Barbara Tripp said the drive-thru site should ease some of the pressure on the walk-up location at Al Lopez Park in West Tampa where three people collapsed while waiting in line on New Years' Eve. But she still expects high demand at both locations.

“So we're asking everyone to preregister on the city website, that'll help the lines flow a little bit faster,” Tripp said.

RESOURCE: Register for a coronavirus test in Tampa

Tripp is asking people who have received booster shots in addition to the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines and are not experiencing symptoms to hold off on visiting the site even if they think they've been exposed to the virus.

In addition, the city of Tampa said in a press release Tuesday that the two sites may need to close the lines early on some days due to high demand and to ensure everyone receives a test prior to the sites closing at 7 p.m.

“The people that should come get tested are the ones experiencing some sort of distress,” she said

The CDC says boosted people do not need to quarantine after exposure but that they should wear masks around others and that it would be “best practice” for them to get tested after five days.

Tripp said the site will test all who ask for it, but said the city is trying to ensure there are enough supplies for those who are actually sick.

She said right now there are ample supplies. But shortages of rapid antigen tests could become an issue because they are in much higher demand than the PCR tests, which are generally more accurate but take longer to get results.

RESOURCE: Find coronavirus tests, vaccines and monoclonal antibodies in Tampa Bay

Tripp expects the new site to test about 1,100 people a day. She said having the drive-thru option should reduce the risk of medical emergencies as people can wait more comfortably in their vehicles.

Rescue teams will be available at both testing locations to respond to any issues. Tripp said no further incidents occurred at the Al Lopez site following Friday’s emergencies.

Both sites will operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and offer visitors a choice of a rapid test or a PCR. Health insurance is not required.

Hillsborough County also manages testing sites at the West Tampa Community Resource Center and Progress Village Park. You can find more testing locations in the greater Tampa Bay region in our county-by-county guide.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.