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coronavirus testing

The coronavirus keeps spreading around the United States. New hot spots are emerging and heating up by the day. The death toll keeps mounting. So how can the U.S. beat back the relentless onslaught of this deadly virus?

Public health experts agree on one powerful weapon that's gotten a lot of attention but apparently still needs a lot more: testing.

A new analysis that researchers at Harvard conducted for NPR finds that more states have begun to do enough testing to keep their outbreaks from getting worse, but most are still falling short.

Cars lined up at drive-thru testing site at Tropicana Field.
St. Petersburg Police Department

As coronavirus cases in Florida have surged, so has the demand for testing and Tampa Bay area health officials are struggling to keep up.


In Florida, where there's a surge of new COVID-19 cases, officials are divided over what to do about it. The state saw 2,783 new cases Tuesday. It was the third time in the past seven days that Florida set a new daily record.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republican officials, including President Trump, say the rising number of new cases was expected and is mostly the result of increased testing. Florida is now testing more than 200,000 people a week, more than double the number tested weekly in mid-May.

coronavirus testing
istock

The number of new COVID-19 cases has gone up in Florida in the past week, with the state and Tampa Bay area reporting some of their highest figures since the pandemic began. This comes a month after the state began reopening for business and recreation.

But data on new cases alone doesn't paint a complete picture about coronavirus in Florida.

Florida Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard
Florida Department of Health

The Florida Department of Health on Thursday reported 48,675 people tested positive for the coronavirus; an increase of 1,204 since Wednesday.

A man and woman in blue scrubs and face shields near a car at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site.
Manatee County Government

Manatee County commissioners have voted to purchase additional COVID-19 testing kits.  The move comes as the county continues to ramp up its testing capacity.

Stephanie Colombini and her boyfriend Shean wearing facemasks in their car as they approach the drive-thru testing site.
Stephanie Colombini / WUSF Public Media

Public health experts say expanded coronavirus testing is critical to safely reopen the economy and prevent a second wave of infections. Parts of Florida like Hillsborough County are offering free testing to everyone.

Health News Florida's Stephanie Colombini recently got tested at one of the county's drive-thru sites, even though she had no symptoms. She shares her experience.

  

2 people in medical scrubs and personal protective gear collect specimens from a car at a COVID-19 drive-thru testing site.
Manatee County Government

Manatee County has had a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases and deaths when compared to the rest of the state.

According to the Florida Department of Health, as of Thursday afternoon, 55 people in Manatee County died from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. That’s the fourth most in the state. Meanwhile, 580 people have tested positive for the virus which represents a 15.4 % presumptive positive test rate, compared to a statewide rate of 8.8%.

drive-thru coronavirus testing site
University of Florida

State and local officials are trying to get the word out to the public that anyone who wants a coronavirus test can get one now.

They have lifted restrictions on symptoms and travel history that were previously in place to ensure supplies got prioritized for those most in-need.


New York state is expanding the criteria for who gets tested for the coronavirus as well as increasing antibody testing to determine how much of the state's population has been infected.

On Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that first responders, medical workers and essential employees would be eligible to receive tests for the coronavirus. The governor also said that he would be authorizing some 5,000 independent pharmacies to serve as sites where the tests could be collected.

coronavirus testing
istock

State officials are meeting to decide when to re-open Florida as the number of new coronavirus cases starts to go down. But public health experts say doing so too soon could be dangerous.

A testing supply tent set up outside Raymond James Stadium
Hillsborough County

Hillsborough County has been notified it will receive $256 million from the federal government though the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The county also plans to open on Wednesday three more coronavirus testing sites: at Lee Davis Community Center, South Shore Community Center and Plant City Community Center.

Updated at 10:10 p.m. ET

One month ago today, President Trump declared a national emergency.

In a Rose Garden address, flanked by leaders from giant retailers and medical testing companies, he promised a mobilization of public and private resources to attack the coronavirus.

"We've been working very hard on this. We've made tremendous progress," Trump said. "When you compare what we've done to other areas of the world, it's pretty incredible."

But few of the promises made that day have come to pass.

Horse on a farm field
iStock

Some counties in Florida have reported no -- or very few -- cases of coronavirus, a reason Gov. Ron DeSantis cited Wednesday for waiting so long to issue a statewide stay-at-home order.

But Jerne Shapiro, an epidemiologist and lecturer at the University of Florida, says the lack of testing – particularly in rural areas – means low numbers may not reflect the real number of infections.

Aerial view of green tents
Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg

As Hillsborough County is under a “safer at home” order, those without a home are at risk.

To limit the spread of coronavirus, the city of Tampa has partnered with Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg to create a temporary outdoor shelter for the homeless.

The shelter, called "Hillsborough Hope," is located on vacant land owned by Catholic Charities.

Health workers in protective gear collect swabs from patients who drove up to the testing site.
Stephanie Colombini / WUSF Public Media

Hillsborough County will open drive-thru coronavirus testing sites at Raymond James Stadium and the Florida State Fairgrounds – as soon as necessary supplies comes in.

Drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in St. Petersburg
Stephanie Colombini / WUSF Public Media

As Florida ramps up its efforts to screen for coronavirus, it's starting to open drive-thru testing sites across the state. But there's still challenges with supplies and testing availability.