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Three collapse at Tampa COVID-19 testing site

Two, both women in their 60s, were hospitalized.
Three people have fainted while waiting at a COVID-19 testing site Al Lopez Park in Tampa on Dec. 31.
Three people have fainted while waiting at a COVID-19 testing site Al Lopez Park in Tampa on Dec. 31. [ Photo illustration by ASHLEY DYE and DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Dec. 31, 2021|Updated Dec. 31, 2021

Three people fainted Friday morning, and two additional people required minor medical attention, while waiting to get tested for COVID-19 at the Al Lopez Park testing site in Tampa.

“The parking lot was at capacity before (the site) even opened this morning at 7,” said Lauren Rozyla, spokesperson for the city of Tampa, which is hosting the test site. “There were hundreds of people in line waiting to get in.”

Rozyla said that more than 1,000 people had been tested by 11:30 a.m. She said the city anticipates between 3,000 and 5,000 tests will be administered at the site each day, and people should expect wait times to be long.

“I can’t tell you how many hours they’re going to be waiting, because I think it varies, but it’s hours, it’s not minutes,” Rozyla said. “They’re going to be out there for a while.”

Two of the people who collapsed Friday morning, both women in their 60s with blood pressure and fainting issues, were taken to the hospital, according to Rozyla.

All five people are considered “not critical,” she said, and none sustained head trauma injuries from the falls.

“Our fire chief said it’s nothing major,” Rozyla said. “She said a lot of people lock their knees, when they’re standing for long periods of time.”

Although the Al Lopez Park testing site is walk-up only, Rozyla said an additional drive-through test site will open at Al Barnes Park, 2902 N 32nd St., on Tuesday to help accommodate the increasing demand. Both sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.

Rozyla said if people are able to wait until Tuesday to be tested, they might find shorter wait times, but to not delay testing if you are high risk, are experiencing symptoms or know you have been exposed.

Across Florida, long lines have plagued coronavirus testing sites, leading people who believe they may have an infection to at times wait for hours to get tested.

The city of Tampa is recommending people who plan to line up for testing come prepared for the wait. If you’re planning to get tested at a walk-up testing site, bring water bottles, folding chairs and umbrellas to keep cool while waiting in line.

Rozyla said the Parks and Recreation Department assisted on Friday and brought water and coolers with ice from the city’s emergency store to line waiters.

“We’re trying to provide some relief to people, but we’re just trying to also emphasize, ‘Help us help you get through these testing lines,’” Rozyla added.

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She encouraged people who plan to be tested to pre-register online at the city’s website to help the line move more quickly, but she emphasized that completing registration paperwork in advance does not mean one has an appointment to be tested at a specific time — people will wait in the same line, regardless.

“It’s not a testing supply issue or anything like that, it’s that there’s literally not enough room in the parking lot to bring in more people,” she said. “We’re just at capacity and we’re going to be at capacity going forward because of the high demand, so expect to wait.”

• • •

How to get vaccinated

The COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 and up and booster shots for eligible recipients are being administered at doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores and public vaccination sites. Many allow appointments to be booked online. Here’s how to find a site near you:

Find a site: Visit vaccines.gov to find vaccination sites in your zip code.

More help: Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline.

Phone: 800-232-0233. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.

TTY: 888-720-7489

Disability Information and Access Line: Call 888-677-1199 or email DIAL@n4a.org.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

KIDS AND VACCINES: Got questions about vaccinating your kid? Here are some answers.

BOOSTER SHOTS: Confused about which COVID booster to get? This guide will help.

BOOSTER QUESTIONS: Are there side effects? Why do I need it? Here’s the answers to your questions.

PROTECTING SENIORS: Here’s how seniors can stay safe from the virus.

COVID AND THE FLU: Get a flu shot and the COVID vaccine to avoid a ‘twindemic.’

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A TRIBUTE TO FLORIDIANS TAKEN BY THE CORONAVIRUS: They were parents and retirees, police officers and doctors, imperfect but loved deeply.

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