Forgot to take a COVID-19 test before traveling? You can get one at this Florida airport

Sep 29, 2020

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These days, your negative COVID-19 PCR test results are just as important as your passport for entering most of the 40-some countries still allowing U.S. travelers to enter.

But travelers are still reporting that test results can be hard to get in a timely fashion, especially within the narrow windows required by some particularly stringent countries. Worse yet would be forgetting to get a test altogether: In most cases, you’ll either be denied boarding, or have to plan to go straight into a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

Fortunately, travelers departing Tampa may soon have an 11th-hour option. The Tampa International Airport (TPA) announced Monday that, starting in October, COVID-19 testing will now be available to anyone who can show proof of current or past travel within 72 hours of test time. The testing facility is located inside the main terminal near the Airside F shuttle stop, and is offered in partnership with BayCare Health System.

Tampa travelers can choose between the rapid antigen test for $57, or the more complex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nasal swab test for $125. It’s worth noting that PCR tests are more accurate, and most international countries do not accept rapid tests for arrival clearance.

Related: Here’s where to find a coronavirus test facility before you fly

Tests are available on walk-in basis seven days a week beginning Oct. 1, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. Rapid antigen test results are available in 15 minutes, and are most accurate within five days of the onset of symptoms.

Unfortunately, you’ll still want to plan ahead if you’re traveling abroad: PCR test results take up to 48 hours.

Tampa claims it is the first airport in the U.S. to provide on-site testing for anyone.  San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has on-site testing for airport and airline workers.

And it isn’t the first dedicated facility to provide COVID-19 testing.

New York City recently launched a testing lab in the city to help expedite the wait times for processing test samples, although the facility isn’t open to the general public. The Pandemic Response Lab (PRL) is now up and running in the Alexandria Center for Life Science at East 29th Street and First Avenue, and currently handles approximately 3,000 samples per day.

The PRL expects to process up to 20,000 samples per day by November and eventually scale to 40,000 per day, in anticipation of what many disease experts fear will be another wave of coronavirus infections as winter approaches. The city of New York currently tests more than 200,000 residents for COVID-19 each week as of mid-September, according to the New York Times, and the new lab will help cut down on processing times for test results.

Featured photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images.

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