TPA COVID-19 testing pilot welcomes its first passenger participants
The Main Terminal site has seen a steady stream of test-ready travelers since its Oct. 1 launch.
Editor's Note: The TPA COVID-19 testing site closed operations on May 7, 2021. Visit the Florida Dept. of Health for testing locations and availability.
Alexandra Bouzas was about to board her flight from Newark when she stopped by TPA’s COVID-19 testing site. Her friend she was visiting in New Jersey saw an article about the testing pilot so she decided get the rapid antigen test before boarding Thursday morning, which happened to be the first day of the pilot program.
After swabbing her nose, she handed off the specimen to a nurse who came out to find her 15 minutes later with the result: Negative.
“It’s a peace of mind and just good to know before I visit my friend that I’m COVID-free,” Bouzas said. “She has a six-month-old baby and it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Bouzas was one of nearly 70 passengers who took advantage of the quick and convenient testing at the Main Terminal TPA site, which is the first in the U.S. to offer both the rapid antigen test and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test to all arriving and departing passengers. The pilot program, which was developed in partnership with BayCare Health System and uses BayCare medical staff to conduct the testing, will take place throughout October.
The testing site, which is open daily from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., had a line of waiting passengers at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday and stayed busy throughout the day.
One guest who stopped by the site, Jim Faile, saw signage for the COVID-19 testing while at TPA attending a TSA PreCheck appointment. He and his wife and two young children were flying to Croatia the following Saturday and he had questions for the BayCare staff about how to time the testing prior to flying.
“This is great,” Faile said. “I had no idea the airport had this, and this makes it easier for us to get clearance once we land.”
At many destinations around the world, government health agencies are requiring travelers to provide a negative PCR test result to avoid quarantine or other restrictions upon arrival. Passengers departing from Tampa to states, countries or territories requiring negative PCR tests are advised to take the test three days before departure and can expect results within 48 hours.
The antigen test, which produces results in 15 minutes and is most accurate within five days of the onset of symptoms, offers an added layer of same-day reassurance for travelers arriving at or departing TPA. A majority of people who have received testing at TPA since Thursday have opted to do the antigen testing as they’re arriving or departing the airport. The PCR testing is more popular among those flying to places where they need to bring a negative test result to avoid quarantining.
The cost of the PCR testing is $125 and the antigen test is $57.
For more information about TPA’s COVID-19 testing pilot, go to: https://baycare.org/TPA-Testing