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Tampa International Airport ending COVID-19 testing program

Nearly 21,000 passengers have used the first-of-its-kind testing program since October.
Donna St. Louis, a registered nurse and vice president of business development for BayCare Health System, shows a rapid antigen test during a demonstration of COVID-19 testing at Tampa International Airport on Sept. 29, 2020.
Donna St. Louis, a registered nurse and vice president of business development for BayCare Health System, shows a rapid antigen test during a demonstration of COVID-19 testing at Tampa International Airport on Sept. 29, 2020. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Apr. 30
Updated Apr. 30

Six months after Tampa International Airport began testing travelers for COVID-19, the airport will end the program next week.

The testing site was the first of its kind when the airport and BayCare Health System teamed up to offer rapid antigen tests and polymerase chain reaction swabs in October. Since then, nearly 21,000 passengers have gotten swabbed in the main terminal.

After daily peaks of 260 tests per day over the holidays, usage has dwindled to 30 per day in recent weeks. The airport and BayCare will test their last passengers on May 7.

“Launching a COVID-19 testing site has been one of TPA’s proudest accomplishments during the COVID-19 crisis, and I’m happy to say we kept a lot of travelers safe by offering this service,” airport CEO Joe Lopano said in a statement. “We still strongly encourage passengers to test at other sites before flying, wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines as we continue to try to reduce COVID-19 case numbers in Florida and around the world.”

Related: Tampa airport introduces coronavirus screening for all passengers

The program was initiated largely to give travelers peace of mind about getting on a plane (or, if they tested positive, letting them know that they shouldn’t). But it also offered a convenient testing option for passengers flying to destinations that required negative tests.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised travelers to continue wearing masks and social distancing while traveling, and recommends against travel unless you’re fully vaccinated. But the agency has also said that vaccinated people can travel at low risk.

People flying abroad should continue to search for travel restrictions in the country where they’re headed to determine whether proof of vaccination or a negative test is required.