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People scramble to get tested for COVID-19 after new sites open

New sites opened Thursday in Largo and Tampa, with more set to open up in Hillsborough County to keep up with demand.

LARGO, Fla. — The demand for COVID-19 testing is evident across the Tampa Bay area after the COVID case counts continue to break records from the omicron variant.

Residents said they feel frustrated at the lack of testing available, along with cases rising once again.

The new site at Progress Village Park in Tampa reached full capacity from the demand before its closing time. 

"We couldn't find anything at the CVS, Walmart or Walgreens," resident Eugene Trout said.

Trout and his wife said they waited two hours to get tested for COVID-19 at the new Pinellas County site in Largo.

But the wait was worth it after the couple said they were exposed to the virus and started to develop mild symptoms themselves, despite being vaccinated and boosted. 

Health experts have said breakthrough cases despite having the vaccine will happen, but the vaccines are still highly effective in preventing hospitalizations or severe symptoms. 

"You've got to know if you're positive," said Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University.

Marty said knowing your status can help prevent immunocompromised individuals or people who are still ineligible for the vaccine like those under 5-years-old from going to the hospital or dying from COVID-19.

Despite the record number of cases, hospitals are staying "cautiously optimistic," Florida Hospital Association President Mary Mayhew said.

As of Thursday, Florida is seeing 4,000 COVID hospitalizations compared to the 17,000 hospitalization peak from the summer delta variant wave, according to Mayhew.

New testing sites were opened around the Tampa Bay area Thursday in Largo and Progress Village Park in Tampa.

On Friday, Al Lopez Park will be open for testing, along with two more this weekend at the Lee Davis Community Center in Tampa and at Plant City's Community Center.

For a list of areas and times on testing, visit this link.

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