Hoping for a COVID-19 test and some peace of mind, more than 70 people navigated a line outside the Bradenton Area Convention Center on Monday morning.
The convention center is one of several locations that offer COVID-19 testing in Manatee County, where the demand for testing is expected to climb. Some families will get screened in the coming days, a reaction to Thanksgiving celebrations, while others may opt for a test before Christmas and New Year’s Day.
“People want to get tested to make sure they’re not positive, taking it home to their family members,” said Jacob Saur, the public safety director for Manatee County.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its guidelines just before Thanksgiving, urging Americans to avoid holiday travel or large gatherings. Still, celebrations continued in homes throughout the country.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, is now urging people to get tested and to heighten their precautions after the Thanksgiving break.
“If you’re young and you gathered, you need to be tested about five to 10 days later,” she said in an interview with Face the Nation. “You need to assume that you’re infected and not go near your grandparents and aunts and others without a mask.”
“If you develop any symptoms you need to be tested immediately,” Birx continued, addressing the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Manatee County residents have several options for walk-up and drive-thru testing:
BRADENTON AREA CONVENTION CENTER
The convention center, One Haben Blvd. in Palmetto, offers free testing from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. The site may close early if it reaches a daily maximum of 500 tests.
No appointment or prescription is required, and both children and adults are eligible for testing at the convention center.
“The state testing sites are doing 15-minute antigen tests,” Saur said. “Not as accurate as the gold standard PCR test that has to go to a lab. But if you are symptomatic and test negative with the antigen test, they will follow that up with the PCR.”
STATE DRIVE-THRU SITE
The state also operates a drive-thru site at 100 Cattlemen Road in Sarasota. The site is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or until the site reaches its daily maximum of 1,000 tests.
“The test used will be a nasal swab,” Manatee County government said on its website. “Once samples are collected they will be sent to a commercial lab for testing and results will be provided as soon as they are available.”
Much like at the convention center, no appointment or prescription is required. Testing is available to anyone over the age of 5, regardless of whether they have symptoms, and cars are limited to five passengers.
LabCorp offers an at-home test called Pixel, which received emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The kit includes a nasal swab for its recipients, who must be at least 18 years old. Results are usually available one to two days after the company receives a sample at its lab.
There are no out-of-pocket costs for those with qualified insurance, and LabCorp has access to federal funds for the uninsured. Otherwise, the cost of a test kit is $119.
“Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, kits are currently reserved for individuals experiencing symptoms or those who have been recommended for testing by a healthcare provider, public health department, or contact investigator,” the company said in an update on Nov. 19.
COVID-19 testing is available at all MCR Health locations. However, drive-thru testing is no longer available, according to Manatee’s website.
For a full list of locations, visit the MCRs website: mcr.health.
“Patient fees for the testing and any associated costs will be determined at the time of the visit,” the county website states.
CVS has at least seven testing locations in Manatee County. Testing is available to anyone 10 or older, though anyone under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
They offer both lab testing and rapid testing. Due to its limited supply, CVS requires people to fill out a questionnaire — including questions about symptoms and possible exposures — before scheduling an appointment online.
“Test supplies are extremely limited,” the website states. “Help those who need testing the most by answering truthfully.”
To fill out the questionnaire and see if you qualify, visit cvs.com/minuteclinic/covid-19-testing.
An insurance card and proof of identity is required at all CVS testing locations. According to the company website, there is no out-of-pocket cost for those with insurance or those who receive federal assistance.
Otherwise, the cost is $100 for the laboratory test and $39 for the CVS visit.
“Patients should not have any out-of-pocket costs, but you should check with your health plan to confirm before scheduling a test,” the website concludes.
Walgreens offers at least two testing sites in Manatee County. The chain offers no-contact testing to anyone 3 or older, according to its website.
“Perform the test yourself using a nasal swab under the direction of a pharmacy team member,” the website states. “Patients ages 3–18 will need a parent or legal guardian present during self-administration of the COVID-19 test.”
Much like its competitor, Walgreens advertises no out-of-pocket costs for those with eligible insurance or those who qualify for government assistance.
Otherwise, the cost is $129 for a diagnostic lab test (results in 72 hours), $129 for a rapid diagnostic test (less than 24 hours), and $49 for a rapid antigen test (results in as little as an hour).
Walgreens has a screening and appointment process on its website: walgreens.com/findcare/covid19/testing.
‘Stay vigilant’ to protect yourself, others
While testing is a valuable tool to help identify and contain new COVID-19 cases, it was not a foolproof measure, Saur said.
“A COVID-19 test is just a snapshot in time,” he said. “That doesn’t give you free reign to say, ‘I don’t have it.’ You could leave that testing site and if you’re not following the precautions — wearing a mask and social distancing — you could be infected five minutes after you leave.”
“There’s lots of talk about a vaccine,” he continued. “But for the general public, that vaccine is quite a ways off. As we move through winter and the holiday season, they have to continue to stay vigilant.”