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Pinellas County plans to ramp up Covid-19 testing

Margie Manning

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Covid-19 test site at Frank Pierce Recreation Center in south St. Petersburg (Photo credit: Florida Department of Health Pinellas County Twitter)

Pinellas County public health officials expect to significantly enhance the availability of Covid-19 testing in the coming days.

Public health officials are working with hospital companies such as BayCare Health System and AdventHealth West Florida to expand testing sites, Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health-Pinellas County, told the Board of County Commissioners on Friday.

“We met this week with community partners such as Advent, BayCare and community centers and we’re looking to partner and expand more community testing sites. I think we may start getting more sites as early as next week,” Choe said. “Our goal is to enhance testing as much as we can in our community.”

Increased testing and contact tracing — efforts to find and notify people who have been exposed to the disease — are expected to play important roles, as local and state governments lift stay at home orders that have been in effect to control the spread of Covid-19.

Pinellas County is getting more test kits, County Administrator Barry Burton told commissioners. That will allow the county to test anyone, Burton said. Initially, there were limited numbers of test kits and they were used just for people who had symptoms of Covid-19, those who were in vulnerable groups such as older people and people with compromised immune systems, or people who believed they had been exposed.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis touted “walk-up” testing in Broward, Duval and Hillsborough counties earlier this week. There will be some walk-up sites in Pinellas, but registration in advance is preferred, Burton said.

Pinellas County health officials will announce details of expanded testing as soon as they are finalized, Choe said.

About 150 people were tested at a Florida Department of Health Pinellas County test site at the Frank Pierce Recreation Center at Bartlett Park in St. Petersburg before it closed at noon Saturday. It was one of two test sites this week in south St. Petersburg.

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