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Florida sees surge in demand for COVID testing

Appointments at local pharmacies filled up fast Wednesday, and we found long wait times for walk-in tests.

TAMPA, Fla — Gloria Tena is just one of many Floridians flocking to get tested for COVID-19 this week.

“I’ve heard the numbers are getting higher and I’m worried,” said Tena, who showed up at a Miami testing site looking for her COVID status earlier this week.

State data shows Florida saw a 59-percent jump in the number of people showing up to get tested this month — on average around 69,000 people a day.

“We saw a 300 percent increase in cases across the US,” said Dr. Jill Roberts with USF Health. “That’s going to trickle down to a burden to all the health care facilities and that includes the pharmacies that are testing the outpatient places that are testing.”

RELATED: Where to get a COVID-19 test around Tampa Bay

Many of the state-run testing sites available over the last year are now closed, leaving local pharmacies and urgent care clinics struggling to keep up with demand.

On Wednesday, we found online appointments for chains like CVS and Walgreens filling up fast, especially for rapid tests that give back the same-day results.

The walk-in wait time for COVID testing at an urgent care clinic in South Tampa was more than two hours Tuesday.

If demands continue to increase, Roberts says the state would likely step in.

“The public health system will respond, all be it slowly if we do start to see the demand overwhelming pharmacies,” she said

Roberts hopes the jump in cases will inspire more mask-wearing and vaccination so local health systems don’t get overwhelmed. She worried about what might happen if testing becomes too difficult.

“I have concerns people may not get tested and then I also have concerns that people won’t take care of themselves,” she said.

And getting a test isn’t just for you. Roberts says positive or not the test results provide valuable information to the state and local health departments.

“We do want to know who is negative," Roberts said. "We need to know what the prevalence is. Who does and doesn’t have it out of the population and we want to keep following that data.”

And if you’re unable to get in for a test at your local pharmacy or health care center Roberts says you can also consider an at-home test for quick results.

“Some of them aren’t going to be as reliable as the PCR test the health department does, but it’s better than nothing so I would encourage you if you want to go that route and if that’s your only option to go ahead go ahead and get that test," she said.

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