Florida to temporarily close state-run testing sites due to storm

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Starting Thursday at 5 p.m., the state of Florida will temporarily close state-run COVID-19 testing sites “in anticipation of impacts” from a potential tropical storm that’s currently lashing the Caribbean with wind and rain. The Florida Division of Emergency Management announced the closure on Wednesday, the same day the state set a new record for single-day coronavirus deaths.

The state runs 162 testing sites in all but two of Florida’s 67 counties, according to the state department of health’s website.

All state-supported testing sites have tents, equipment and other “free standing structures” that are not able to withstand tropical storm force winds, the department said in a press release. If those objects are lifted during the storm, they “could cause damage to people and property if not secured.”

The department said the sites will remain closed until they can safely be reopened, but added that all are expected to reopen by August 5 at the latest. 

In a series of tweets, the department encouraged people with coronavirus symptoms to “receive a self-swab test at state-supported drive-thru sites” prior to the closings, adding that those people “will be prioritized” and will receive their results within 72 hours. 

County health departments will continue to offer free COVID-19 tests, emergency management said.

But some counties are also closing their testing sites. Miami-Dade County, which makes up roughly a quarter of the state’s total coronavirus cases, according to state data, announced that all drive-thru and walk-up testing sites in the county will be closed from Friday “until further notice.” In Palm Beach County, which has the third-highest amount of cases in the state, sites will be closed at least on Friday and Saturday. Some may open again on Monday, depending on the trajectory of the storm, the county website said.

The National Hurricane Center said that the storm is expected to reach the southern part of Florida by Friday night, potentially as a tropical storm. 

The storm is predicted to produce heavy wind and rain as it moves through Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other islands in the Caribbean.

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