ST. PETERSBURG — Tropicana Field will transform into a COVID-19 testing site, Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference in Tampa Thursday afternoon.
The news came during the governor’s announcement that the state is working with local providers to expand testing opportunities in communities as COVID-19 cases and related deaths rise throughout the state.
DeSantis said BayCare Health will operate the testing site at the Trop, as it currently does with the drive-thru that opened at Raymond James Stadium in March. Hillsborough County officials announced earlier Thursday that state medical support would replace the staff from BayCare at the end of the month.
BayCare, which unexpectedly closed its test site at Carillon earlier this week, confirmed Friday that the Trop drive-thru site will open Monday.
“We so appreciate that the Tampa Bay Rays embraced this idea and are joining us to serve the community,” said Jim Cote, senior vice president for BayCare Ambulatory Services, in a statement. “From the very beginning of this pandemic, we’ve known that a key requirement of fighting this virus would be making sure individuals have access to testing to confirm whether they have it.”
Next week, the site will operate Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and be closed Friday, July 3, in observance of Independence Day. In following weeks, the site will operate Monday through Friday from 8 to 11 a.m.
DeSantis said the state was prepared to support the BayCare sites with swabs and additional resources as needed.
He said officials are also expanding lanes at existing drive-thru sites now that there is an increase in testing demand as more cases are reported.
“I was going around in mid-, late March begging people to get tested, because we didn’t have a lot of traffic going through these sites,” DeSantis said. “We are expanding capacity at our existing sites, we will support the Pinellas County test (site) and then if the need to do more at Raymond James, you know we’re happy to do that.”
BayCare announced Monday it was looking for a replacement drive-thru site in Pinellas after it suddenly closed its site at Carillon on Monday. Officials said demand for testing tripled in the past week, leading to long car lines that wound through the parking lot of other businesses.
State officials said earlier Thursday that the state plans to take over and expand cornavirus testing at Raymond James Stadium.
The change is expected to occur June 30. The state Division of Emergency Management plans to expand testing to five days a week, with a goal of administering 1,000 tests daily, said Timothy Dudley, the county’s emergency management director.
It will nearly double the 4,800 tests the county now administers weekly at seven sites.
The county will continue to do the administrative work, but the state medical support will replace the staff from BayCare, which had been working at Raymond James stadium since the testing began in March. The site currently operates Tuesdays and Fridays and does between 500 to 700 tests each of those two days, said Dudley.
Times staff writer C.T. Bowen contributed to this report.
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