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TPA becomes first airport to offer passengers on-site COVID-19 testing

The airport will make two kinds of coronavirus tests available to all passengers.

TAMPA, Fla — Tampa International Airport is making history. 

TPA says it is partnering with BayCare Health System to offer passengers COVID-19 tests starting Oct. 1. It is the first airport in the country to offer tests for all of its passengers, according to a spokesperson with TPA.

“Only TPA is doing this,” said Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano. “And we hope others will follow.”

The airport said it is a 30-day pilot program but hopes it will be expanded after a successful run. 

During a press conference Tuesday, the airport said BayCare nurses and medical professionals will be available to administer tests seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Two kinds of COVID-19 tests are available to passengers – Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and rapid antigen. BayCare says PCR test results should come within 48 hours, and a rapid antigen test will have results in about 15 minutes. 

The airport says all passengers will be able to get a test within three days before or after their flight when they bring proof of travel. Testing will be offered on a walk-in basis from Oct. 1 through Oct. 31. The testing site will be in the main terminal by airside E & F, according to the airport. 

“It’s for any passenger. Where you are arriving or departing. No matter your airline. No matter the gate. No matter your destination. We can test you,” said TPA Vice President of Operations John Tiliacos.

The airport says the PCR COVID-19 test will cost $125 and the rapid antigen test will cost $57. 

"As a gateway to the West Coast of Florida with a growing market for international travel, Tampa International Airport has a responsibility to explore safe, rapid and affordable ways to keep our travelers, their destinations and our community as safe and healthy as possible," TPA CEO Joe Lopano said. "We're thankful to our partners at BayCare in helping us create a pilot program that gives us a step in the right direction, as well as providing a valuable service to our passengers."

The TPA site is one of four testing locations run by BayCare across the Tampa Bay area. 

"Tampa International Airport has been a leader of airport health protocols since the earliest signs of the pandemic and was one of the first in the country to mandate masks, install plastic shields and apply social distancing markers through its TPA Ready launch in April," said Gary Harrod, Chairman of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which oversees TPA. "These innovative efforts go a long way in building traveler confidence and keeping our region safe as we continue to recover from the impacts of COVID-19."

Passengers seemed to appreciate the program.

“It provides peace of mind,” passenger Jon Bean said. “And I think it gives a very quick answer if someone has a question.”

“I would want to know, just to be on the safer side if I do have a higher risk or not. And this is the quickest place and easiest place. It’s convenient,” added passenger Ariana Cox.

“If someone is positive, what we are going to do is work closely with Dept. Of Health and Hillsborough County to notify them,” said BayCare Health’s Dr. Nishant Anand.

The goal, they say, is to boost confidence among travelers. Tourism, Florida’s biggest industry, is still suffering badly.   

“Fifty-four percent of Americans say they’re ready to travel now. Another 25 percent say with the right assurances they’ll travel,” said U.S. Travel Association President Roger Dow, “And today’s program is one of those that gives them the right assurances.”

There are other airports performing on-site testing for COVID-19, but those tests have been reserved for pilots, crew, and airport personnel. TPA is the first airport offering those tests specifically for passengers.

The airport says it’s not making any money on the testing program. Free parking will be offered for up to one hour.

“This is about instilling even greater confidence in the traveling public,” said Tiliacos, “Frankly, it’s about breathing life back into our industry that is very badly needed right now.”

Find more information on testing at the Tampa International Airport here.

You can watch the full press conference here:

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