Hillsborough County gets more coronavirus test kits, extends days at Raymond James Stadium

The county had about 2,300 test kits for the drive-thru site as of Thursday morning.
Vehicles line up at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Raymond James Stadium site on Wednesday, March 25, 2020  in Tampa.  Residents that wish to be tested had to be approved and registered online before arriving at the site.
Vehicles line up at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at Raymond James Stadium site on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 in Tampa. Residents that wish to be tested had to be approved and registered online before arriving at the site. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published April 2, 2020|Updated April 2, 2020

TAMPA — Those who have a fever, cough or shortness of breath have a greater chance of getting tested for COVID-19 now that Hillsborough County received an additional 1,000 test kits from the state.

The county is using those kits and nasal swabs at its drive-thru testing site at Raymond James Stadium.

Not just anyone can drive up to be tested, though. People must be symptomatic and must call a call center in advance to be approved for an appointment. The site is open from 8 to 11 a.m. on weekdays.

The latest shipment from the state means the county had about 2,300 tests available Thursday morning. Hillsborough County received a separate 1,500 kits earlier this week, allowing them to reopen the stadium testing site.

Officials expect the drive-thru site to remain open through Wednesday, or while supplies last.

Local government and medical professionals continue to report a shortage of testing kits and protective gear, but a high demand for testing. But the numbers from the Raymond James testing site tell a different story.

Related: Fewer people tested for COVID-19 than expected at reopened Raymond James Stadium

Officials were prepared to administer 500 tests a day, but so far have fallen short of that. On Wednesday, 195 people met pre-screening requirements and were tested. That number rose to just under 400 Thursday. That brings the total to nearly 600 out of a potential 1,000 people getting tested.

County officials could not explain where that discrepancy came from or what the lower turnout meant.

“We continue to get the message out that testing is available,” Hillsborough County Emergency Management Coordinator Tim Dudley said. “It’s hard to say. This has certainly been a challenge, a fluid situation, trying to get an understanding. It just changes by the hour. But we’re going to continue to provide that opportunity.”

The week before, the county administered 900 tests over three days.

Dudley said last week that the county put in an order with the state for 15,000 test kits. An additional 50,000 kits were requested from the University of South Florida and other healthcare facilities.

Hillsborough County Fire Chief Dennis Jones said those tests were a mix of the nasal swabs used in drive-thru sites and also rapid tests kits that can produce results much quicker, in a matter of minutes or hours. Those, he said, are primarily for those in public safety, nursing homes and adult living facilities.

Related: Tampa Bay could have coronavirus tests that share results in minutes by mid-April

Officials had tested about 1,500 people at the stadium site as of Thursday afternoon. Results from those tests are shared with the state, but Dudley said the county is not directly notified of how many tests have been processed and how many are pending.

BayCare Health Systems, which helps with the stadium site and also coordinates three other drive-thru sites in Tampa Bay, has reported long delays in patients receiving results. What started as an expected 3-5 day rate has risen to has long as 12 to 14 days. Officials are hoping that number will start to fall as more resources become available.

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To make an appointment to get tested at Raymond James Stadium, people should call the call center at (813) 272-5900 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The call center is closed on weekends.

“Appointment seekers are urged to be thoughtful of others,” county officials said in a statement. “Test kit supplies are low, and demand is very high across the nation.”

Raymond James Stadium drive-through testing site

Hours: 8 to 11 a.m. weekdays through Wednesday, or until supplies run out.

Address: 4201 N Dale Mabry Highway. The site is in the parking lot south of the stadium bordered by Tom McEwen Boulevard on the north, North Dale Mabry Highway to the west and North Himes Avenue to the east. Vehicles should enter from Dale Mabry or Himes.

Requirements: You must call the Hillsborough County Customer Service Center at (813) 272-5900. Only individuals who are pre-screened, meet requirements and receive a confirmation email may be tested. People cannot just show up at the site.

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