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Hillsborough County to add coronavirus test access

The changes will more than triple available appointments at three community centers

TAMPA — Hillsborough County is expanding its coronavirus testing capabilities at three community sites.

The changes at the Lee Davis Community Resource Center on 22nd Street in Tampa, the center in Plant City and the SouthShore center in Ruskin will more than triple available appointments from 2,700 to 9,000 weekly, said Timothy Dudley, Hillsborough County’s emergency management director.

The changes will allow expanded hours on evenings and weekends and set-aside times specifically for first-responders, health-care workers and other essential workers, Dudley told the Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group Thursday afternoon.

The expansion is possible because the county is transitioning staffing at the three sites. A state of Florida vendor is providing staffing for the next two weeks and then the county will assume responsibilities.

For the next two weeks, personnel at Lee Davis and Plant City will test residents with expanded appointments and hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The test site at the SouthShore Community Resource Center in Ruskin is changing its operation days to Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in order to offer more weekend testing.

To make an appointment, call (888) 513-6321 or register online.

The county and its partners are providing coronavirus tests at eight sites, including Raymond James Stadium, and the county also provides mobile testing for people without transportation. The county, hospitals and private providers are now administering, on average, more than 31,000 tests for the virus each week, with the county sites accounting for 20 percent of the tests.

Thursday’s announcement came after the state announced 173 COVID-19 deaths — a single-day record — including 18, or 10.4 percent of the state total, in Hillsborough County.

Total cases in the county now are 25,432, after a one-day increase of 541. Hospitalizations in the county climbed to 1,096, an increase of 35, and the number of people who have died in Hillsborough is 282, the state said.

Data through Tuesday that was shared with the Emergency Policy Group showed an 18 percent increase in positive cases over the previous seven days.

More positive cases meant more hospitalizations. The seven-day average hospital census of COVID-19 patients was 495, a 20 percent jump from the previous week. Likewise, the seven-day average of daily admissions of patients with the cornonavirus was 53, a 39 percent increase over the previous week, according to information supplied by Tampa General Hospital’s data exchange.

The 14-day average of cases was 627, a 7.7 percent decline, and the two-week average rate of positive test results was 15 percent.

Dr. Douglas Holt, director of the state Health Department for Hillsborough County, called the trajectory declines “encouraging,” but warned, “We want to be cautious. These numbers remain very high.”

A better target, Hold said, would be numbers similar to what the county saw in May, with 50 cases per day. The current positive test rate, he added, is “well above what we would like to do. … My preference would be 5 percent.”

“We must not relax our social distancing and mask use,‘' Holt said.

Dr. John Curran, professor emeritus at the University of South Florida and chairman of the county’s Health Care Advisory Committee, said the re-opening of schools could put the senior citizen population more at risk.

“Grandparents probably aren’t playing it as safe as they should,” he said. “I think we need to have messaging to our seniors about we need to stay the distance and we have to deny ourselves that pleasure” of close contact with grandchildren.

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