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Hillsborough phone bank now fielding calls from people who want coronavirus testing

The county will soon open its first mobile testing site at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium as an appointment-only operation for those worried they have symptoms.
Hillsborough County Center.
Hillsborough County Center. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Mar. 24, 2020
Updated Mar. 24, 2020

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TAMPA — Hillsborough County’s first mobile testing site for the COVID-19 coronavirus will soon start accepting patients, the county announced Tuesday.

But walk-in customers won’t be allowed.

Testing will be by appointment only, the county’s announcement said. And to get on the list, residents worried they could be experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus must first be pre-screened and pre-registered by the county.

The county’s COVID-19 testing hotline went live early Tuesday morning, and can be reached at (813) 272-5900.

County health employees are working with the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa and the county’s largest health care providers — BayCare Health System, Tampa General Hospital, Advent Health and HCA Healthcare — to staff and operate the call center Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Because of the limited testing materials available in Hillsborough County, callers will first be asked a series of questions regarding their current medical condition, recent travel history and whom they have had contact with over the past two weeks to see if they qualify for testing.

Those testing criteria are set by the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the county said.

Related: Here’s where to get tested for the coronavirus in Tampa Bay

If staff members determine that a caller needs COVID-19 testing, that person will be sent a confirmation by email with their appointed date and time for testing at a drive-thru clinic in the parking lot of Raymond James Stadium.

Hillsborough County officials hope the mobile testing site, located at 4201 N Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa, will open as soon as 8 a.m. Wednesday. But unless the county receives more test collection kits and protective gear from the state, the clinic will close after exhausting its supply of 900 swabs.

Patients must print out their confirmation email from the county call center and bring it with them to their appointment. Without the printed confirmation, patients will likely have a longer wait to be tested.

No one will be tested at the Raymond James site without proper identification showing name, date of birth and a photo. The county will accept any of the following: a Florida driver’s license, state-issued identification card or a passport.

According to Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill, the tests will be free to residents.

“We’re not concerned about cost at this time,” Merrill said. “We’ve made arrangements for the county to take care of the cost and track the billing for reimbursement. We don’t want the drive-thru process to get bogged down by showing ID and insurance cards.”

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Those who do not have a designated primary care physician or are uninsured but believe they qualify for testing should call (813) 272-5900 to speak with county staff, Merrill said.

For more information on COVID-19, call the Hillsborough County information line at (813) 272-5900 or visit HCFLGov.net/StaySafe.

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