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COVID-19 testing demand increases ahead of Thanksgiving Day

Long lines seen at testing sites across Central Florida

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – All across Central Florida on Thursday, cars wrapped around buildings, ball parks and parking lots as people waited to get tested for COVID-19. The demand for testing is increasing across the region, including in Orange County.

At the state-run Orange County Convention Center, officials closed the gates an hour and half earlier due to the demand. According to the site’s spokesman Mike Jachles, the increase in demand is because of the addition of rapid tests, an increase in case numbers and the Thanksgiving holiday one week away.

“Currently we are looking at a 90-plus minute wait at the Orange County Convention Center,” Jachles said. “We’ve seen a high demand at the state testing sites recently, especially as we head into the holidays.”

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In line at the Orange County Convention Center Thursday was Robert Michalczak, getting tested before seeing his family on Thursday.

“I’d like to see my grandson next week for Thanksgiving, and he is a special needs child and I want to make sure I can be as safe as I can before I go over there,” he said.

Across the county at Barnett Park, Amir Alagic was also waiting to get tested.

“I’m getting tested for COVID because I was exposed earlier this week and I’m going down to see my family for Thanksgiving, just trying to be safe for everybody,” Alagic said, adding if he does test positive he will not be visiting family. “Absolutely not, that’s why I am doing it, just to make sure.”

The demand at Barnett Park has been high since Orange County began administering rapid tests at the park last week. Because of the success and the demand, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings announced Thursday they will be opening up testing at the site on weekends starting this weekend.

It is important to note, the CDC says the safest way to be safe this Thanksgiving holiday is to spend it with those you live with. For more holiday and travel guidelines, click here.

News 6 contacted every health department in Central Florida to see what kind of demand they are seeing and if the demand is impacting turnaround time for results. Here are the questions we asked and the unedited responses by county:

Orange County

  • What is the average turnaround time for results for PCR testing? The turnaround time from GenetWorks is still 48 hours so far.
  • Does your county offer rapid testing right now? Yes.
  • Are you seeing high demand at test sites? Yes. We have processed an average of 1,323 tests every day which is an average of approximately 1,000 individuals tested per day since opening last Monday.
  • As people head out for the holiday next week -- when do you recommend they get tested? When is the absolute latest a person can get tested? We will be offering testing services every day except Thanksgiving day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to ensure everyone has access to testing services as needed. However, it is important to mention that we have closed the line at the site this week at approximately 4:30 p.m. to ensure we finish at 5 pm or at least soon after 5 p.m. So the public should not wait until 5 p.m. to get to the testing site as they won’t be tested.

Marion County

  • We are hoping to see what is the average turnaround time for results for PCR testing? 3-5 days on average for testing that we are performing. That’s fairly consistent with our typical result turnaround time a month ago.
  • Does your county offer rapid testing right now? There are providers within the county that offer rapid testing.
  • Are you seeing high demand at test sites? Demand has been higher this week at our public test site.
  • As people head out for the holiday next week -- when do you recommend they get tested? When is the absolute latest a person can get tested? If someone is trying to get tested before the holiday, they should get tested as soon as possible because it may take several days for them to receive a result. However, it’s important that you remember that all COVID-19 tests are point-in-time tests. That means your results show whether you had the virus at the moment you were tested. You could be exposed to COVID-19 the hour or day after you were tested, though. This means you still need to practice mitigation efforts like masking and social distancing over Thanksgiving even if you have received negative COVID-19 test results.

Lake County

  • What is the average turnaround time for results for PCR testing? We are still seeing a two – three day turnaround time if the sample is sent the same day.
  • Does your county offer rapid testing right now? As of right now DOH-Lake does not offer rapid testing for the general public. However, Lake County is partnering with Adult Medicine of Lake County to offer free rapid testing to Lake County residents beginning Thursday, Nov. 19 and continuing through Tuesday, Dec. 8. Learn more at https://lakecountyfl.gov/news_releases/news_release.aspx?id=4657
  • Are you seeing high demand at test sites? We have experienced an increase in people coming in for testing.
  • As people head out for the holiday next week -- when do you recommend they get tested? When is the absolute latest a person can get tested? Please refer to the press release available here for more information regarding the upcoming holiday: http://www.floridahealth.gov/newsroom/2020/11/111920-safe-and-healthy-holiday-season.pr.html

Seminole County

  • What is the average turnaround time for results for PCR testing? Results turnaround time vary according to the laboratory and testing demand.
  • Does your county offer rapid testing right now? The Florida Department of Health in Seminole County does not provide rapid testing. Please visit prepareseminole.org for specific testing dates and locations and type of tests offered throughout Seminole County.
  • Are you seeing high demand at test sites? Please visit https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/ dashboard under the Florida testing tab for data of persons tested by week.
  • As people head out for the holiday next week -- when do you recommend they get tested? When is the absolute latest a person can get tested? State, local, and territorial governments may have travel restrictions in place, including testing requirements, stay-at-home orders, and quarantine requirements upon arrival. Follow state, local, and territorial travel restrictions. For up-to-date information and travel guidance, check the state, territorial, tribal and local health department where you are, along your route, and where you are going. Prepare to be flexible during your trip as restrictions and policies may change during your travel. For more information on traveling during the pandemic visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html

Brevard County

The average turnaround for the PCR testing offered at the Florida Department of Health in Brevard County (DOH-Brevard) drive-through testing site is 48 hours. Over the last week we have provided an average of 96 PCR tests per day.

DOH-Brevard does not currently offer antigen testing, but it is available at the state-run testing site at Eastern Florida State College in Palm Bay.

Demand has been steady for a few weeks.

Testing prior to Thanksgiving does not preclude someone from being or becoming positive during a holiday gathering; please see the recent press release that includes suggested precautions.

Volusia County

Different providers and labs have different turnaround times. However tests done at the department of health are taking about 48 hours for results of a PCR test.

There is a state testing site in New Smyrna Beach, 1000 Live Oak Street. More information is online at volusia.org/testing.

Demand for testing has increased significantly.


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