Tampa International Airport 1st To Offer Coronavirus Testing

TAMPA, FL — Tampa International Airport will soon offer coronavirus testing for arriving and departing passengers, announced airport officials Monday morning.

TPA is the first airport in the country to do so.

TPA is partnering with BayCare Health System to provide the tests. There will be two types of FDA-approved tests offered – the swab and rapid antigen. 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.

“We think this is going to be a very successful trial,” said the TPA CEO Joe Lopano. “This is just a test but if it’s successful, and we think it will be, we’ll continue it and we’ll grow it and we’ll build it into something more.”

The testing is voluntary.

As part of an initial trial period, according to TPA, tests will be administered from Oct. 1 through Oct. 31 in the main terminal. They will be offered seven days a week on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

All ticketed passengers who are flying, or can prove they’ve flown within the prior three days, are eligible.

The testing site, located inside the Main Terminal near the Airside F shuttle, will offer both the rapid antigen test and Polymerase Chain Reaction test.

PCR nasal swab test results are the most accurate and broadly accepted internationally. Interested travelers will be able to purchase either test regardless of which airline they’re booked on, their gate location or destination.

The PCR COVID-19 test costs $125 and the antigen test costs $57.

“We’re going to build confidence on behalf of the traveling public by giving them an opportunity to have a test done right here at the airport before they get on a flight,” Lopano said. “This is the only airport in the whole country that is doing these tests. We hope others will follow. Testing is the key to getting people back to travel.”

The testing will be offered in the main terminal on a walk-in basis starting Oct. 1.

“I believe this is going to allow people to travel to see loved ones,” said Baycare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nishant Anand. “It’s going to allow other passengers to feel safe if they’re traveling. It’s going to allow them to know that people around them have had some sort of screening test done.”

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.

“As a gateway to the West Coast of Florida with a growing market for international travel, Tampa International Airport has a responsibility to explore safe, rapid and affordable ways to keep our travelers, their destinations and our community as safe and healthy as possible,” Lopano said. “We’re thankful to our partners at BayCare in helping us create a pilot program that gives us a step in the right direction, as well as providing a valuable service to our passengers.”

As one of the leading health care systems in West Central Florida, BayCare was one of the first in the region to provide testing access to the community early in the pandemic. BayCare launched drive-thru coronavirus testing sites in March across the region in addition to testing in its hospital facilities. Since then, BayCare has tested more than 210,000 people for the coronavirus.

“We’re proud to continue to work with local partners like TPA to expand access to COVID-19 testing,” said Anand. “We believe testing plays a crucial role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing travelers for the virus could help mitigate any potential spread in airports and planes.”

The TPA site is one of four testing locations BayCare is helping run across the Tampa Bay area.

“Tampa International Airport has been a leader of airport health protocols since the earliest signs of the pandemic and was one of the first in the country to mandate masks, install plastic shields and apply social distancing markers through its TPA Ready launch in April,” said Gary Harrod, chairman of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority which oversees TPA. “These innovative efforts go a long way in building traveler confidence and keeping our region safe as we continue to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.”

For more information about the TPA COVID-19 pilot testing program, click here.

This article originally appeared on the Tampa Patch

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