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Hillsborough County requests state assistance to ramp up COVID-19 testing

Testing sites across Florida have not been able to keep up with demand following a spike in cases.

TAMPA, Fla. — At the Lee Davis Community Center in Tampa, some people trying to get a COVID-19 test on Wednesday had to be turned away after too many people showed up without an appointment.

Hillsborough County has been asking people to call in advance to eliminate delays.

“When they show up, it's literally just a case of you drive up, you get tested, your stuff is in the system, you go. If people just show up and they crash the gate -- all that data entry, all that processing has to be done manually, in writing,” said Hillsborough County’s coordinator of COVID-19 testing, John-Paul Lavandeira.

The county admits there have been problems getting through on the phone lines. We tried calling on Monday and waited on hold for 52 minutes before finally getting through.

“Folks trying to get a COVID appointment were competing with folks calling about potholes or folks calling about animal control issues,” Lavandeira said. “They are all competing for a finite amount of phone lines.”

The county has since announced a dedicated hotline and is also working to add an online scheduling option in the coming days. All this as demand for testing is skyrocketing across the area.

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Hillsborough and other counties say they have plenty of test kits, they just need more trained people to actually administer the tests.

“We need to have licensed medical workers; it's not a matter of just getting bodies," he said.

The county says right now it is in negotiations with the state to try to get that extra help to Hillsborough County so it can increase testing.

“Any and all options are on the table at this point,” Lavandeira said. “The state has some access to licensed medical personnel that could be deployed to these situations.”

County leaders say ramping up testing may take time, but they're pressing the state to send help fast.

“That before anything is the job of government,” Lavandeira said. “This is a top priority for us. We're holding nothing back and anything we can do to implement and improve out there we will do.”

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