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COVID-19 cases increase along with testing

Jaymi Butler

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Covid 19

Both Pinellas County and the state of Florida reported their second-highest daily increase of COVID-19 cases Friday, according to Florida Department of Health Data.

For the first time, Pinellas County’s number of infections topped 10,000, with 467 new cases identified in the last 24 hours, along with two more deaths. The state reported more than 11,400 new cases and 93 fatalities.

The higher numbers come during the same week that Pinellas County opened a new testing site at the Mahaffey Theater. The site, which opened Wednesday, tested 700 people on its first day of operation and just over 900 people on Thursday, said Ashley J. Johnson, senior communications coordinator for Pinellas County. 

“It’s great to see people coming out to get tested,” she said. “Everything is going smoothly.”

The test site, which is run through a partnership between Florida Emergency Management, the Florida Department of Health, Pinellas County, the City of St. Petersburg and the Mahaffey, is drive-through only. Appointments and prescriptions are not required, and the tests are free. The site has been able to keep up with demand without running out of tests, a problem which has periodically occurred at the Tropicana Field test site.

Johnson said organizers have made a few tweaks since their first day of operations, including increased signage and an improved registration process. Wait times have ranged between 10 minutes and two and a half hours. Because the Mahaffey site is open later hours than the site at Tropicana Field, the two locations are “really complementary to each other,” Johnson said. 

“If someone comes early to ours, we can send them there,” she said. “Or if someone comes late for them, they can send them to us.”

Results are coming back in as little as 24 hours and as long as a week, though as the number of people being tested increases, so do the waits. Johnson said the fastest way to access results is by visiting Pinellas County’s COVID-19 testing website at https://covid19.pinellascounty.org/testing/next-steps/

“It’s much quicker than trying to call,” she said. 

The Tropicana Field testing site, which is run by BayCare, has tested more than 3,100 people for COVID-19 since its opening June 29. On Friday, just over 200 patients were screened. Traffic at the site has been steady throughout the week, said BayCare spokeswoman Vjollca “Viola” Hysenlika.

During a press conference in Orlando Friday afternoon, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that Florida’s testing continues to be “very robust,” with 95,000 tests coming back Friday. He said the state is working on finding ways to turn around results more quickly.

For more information on Pinellas County test sites, click here

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