State-supported COVID-19 testing sites to start opening back up

Locations shut down ahead of Tropical Storm Isaias

Crews work to rebuild a COVID-19 testing site that was temporarily shut down ahead of Tropical Storm Isaias. (Florida Association of Public Information Officers)

ORLANDO, Fla. – With the threat of Tropical Storm Isaias diminishing, more than a dozen state-supported COVID-19 testing sites that were shut down due to the inclement weather are planning to reopen as early as Monday.

Sites across Florida, including the one at the Orange County Convention Center, closed Thursday evening to give crews time to take down the tents and pack up before the storm approached the state.

Southeast Florida felt the impact from Isais Sunday morning before it moved toward Central Florida’s coast later in the afternoon. As of 5 p.m., Florida is out of the storm’s cone of uncertainty and reports of damage have been limited.

The Florida Association of Public Information Officers announced early Sunday evening that workers had already started the process of re-assembling the sites in Miami-Dade and Browardcounties, which have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic.

That announcement was followed up with a tweet from the Florida Division of Emergency Management a few hours later letting the public know that 15 state-supported testing sites would reopen Monday while the remaining locations would open over the next few days as conditions allow.

Though the state-supported sites closed because they’re set up outdoors and can’t handle wind and rain, many private sites continued operating through the weekend.

Still, officials have said that the free sites closing temporarily could have an impact on the state’s coronavirus figures.

“What I think will happen is that we will see an increase in our positivity rate, because we will be doing less testing. And I think that the people who would really go for testing during a storm -- if we have the storm -- are people who are feeling really sick,” Dr. Raul Pino from the Florida Department of Health said on Thursday.

On the flip side, Mike Jachles from the Florida Department of Emergency Management said there could be at least one benefit to the decrease in testing.

“It’s very possible the labs may be able to take advantage of this opportunity and be able to get caught up on tests and even further reduce the turn around times,” Jachles said.

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