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Since the first coronavirus cases were found in Florida, testing has ramped up. But there are still issues, and it’s constantly changing. Read these questions to learn more about what testing looks like in the Tampa Bay area and Florida.
Q: How can I find out how many people in Florida have been tested?
A: An interactive dashboard from the Department of Health shows how many people have been tested in total, including how many are positive, how many are negative and how many are pending.
Q: What do I do if I think I need to be tested?
A: Call your doctor or the county health department if you think you’re experiencing coronavirus symptoms, like a fever, shortness of breath or a dry cough. You can also call the state coronavirus call center 24/7 at 1-(866) 779-6121 or email COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Are there enough testing kits?
A: The state has been increasing testing, but there’s a shortage of kits that limits how widespread it can be. Hillsborough County got 900 testing kits on Saturday, but still said it wasn’t enough. Jared Moskowitz, the director of the state Division of Emergency Management, said in an interview on Sunday that Florida is competing for resources against “everybody but Antarctica.”
He said they’ve ordered 1.2 million testing kits and are still placing orders to ensure they can get more.
The state has also recently partnered with private labs to expand testing.
Q: Has testing been spread evenly across the state?
A: No. Testing has been heaviest in South Florida, which is the epicenter of coronavirus in the state. After Broward and Miami Dade counties, Hillsborough has tested the most people. Moskowitz said in an interview on Sunday that everybody wants testing up and running, but because of short supply they have to focus on critical areas with proven community spread like Broward County.
During the first two weeks since a positive coronavirus case was announced in the state, the state was only testing an average of about 50 people a day.
Q: So testing hasn’t been evenly spread. What does that mean for how many cases are in the state?
A: It means the number given will continue to grow, as Gov. Ron DeSantis has said.
Q: How do we know what increase is from more testing and what is from more spread?
A: There’s not an easy way to tell. Jay Wolfson, a public health expert at USF, said because there isn’t any lockdown in Florida and people are still moving around, spread is happening. “As we test, we will pick up more of whoever it is who has it, whether they got it last week or today,” Wolfson said.
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Q: What information about testing is the state releasing to the public?
A: Daily Department of Health reports include the number of people tested, positive and negative results, county-level breakdowns of test numbers, which cities positive cases have been recorded in, age and gender breakdowns, testing numbers by which lab conducted the test, and basic demographic and travel information about all positive cases.
Q: Why have asymptomatic people been getting tested?
A: Probably because of their job or position of power. The Miami mayor got tested despite showing few symptoms, but the city of Miami confirmed it got testing for elected officials and workers because of their jobs.
Q: What does a test involve?
A: A test will involve collecting an oral, nasal and saliva specimen.
Q: Who determines who can be tested?
A: The CDC sets guidelines, but the state and local health departments make the decision. Despite testing being focused on people who have traveled or who have been exposed to someone with coronavirus, a new testing location at The Villages will collect specimens from asymptomatic individuals to conduct research, according to WUSF.
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