Higher demand creates longer waits for COVID-19 testing locally


PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Bay County, with 62 new cases announced on Wednesday.

With that surge also comes an increased demand for testing; some drive-up testing sites have had to close early because of an overwhelming line of people.

Local resident Katie Southerland said on Wednesday that she’s had a tough time getting a COVID-19 test, even though her workplace is requiring one due to a recent exposure.

“All the places either had such a long line that they would have been out by the time we got to the front, or they were already out,” Southerland said. 

She’s not alone; other residents said while they’ve been able to easily book an appointment, it takes days or even weeks in advance. Reasons for testing difficulties vary across the area, from insufficient manpower at testing sites to the sheer increase in people wanting a test.

“We have several different testing sights that are open, they’re all booking out,” said Ashley Kelley, the marketing coordinator with PanCare. “We have them at maximum capacity that our teams are able to keep up with.”

As of Wednesday, PanCare’s Bay County locations are booked through Tuesday, July 28th. They’re also hiring for more testers and data loggers; anyone with any kind of medical background is eligible to apply. At Nation’s Best Family Health Care in Panama City, they’ve also seen the demand for testing skyrocket.

“We went from doing maybe 20 to 30 tests a day to doing over 100, 150 tests a day,” said Julia Neihl, a physician’s assistant at Nation’s Best.

According to the Bay County Health Department, they’ve met their goal of testing two percent of the population monthly since May. Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard reported as of Wednesday that nearly ten thousand tests have been conducted in Bay County. Still, some residents have said it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be tested quickly. 

“There’s a lot of people that have been trying to get tests and some are two, three, four weeks out before their availability,” said Bay County Commission Chairman, Philip “Griff” Griffitts.

On Tuesday, the commission announced that they are working to meet the growing demand for testing in the area. 

“We’ve made a request through the State Department of Emergency Management to bring two mobile testing sites to the county to help the people around here get availability to testing,” said Griffitts.

There’s no word yet on when those two additional sites will be available.

In the meantime, the Health Department recommends that people with symptoms should contact their doctor and seek testing.  Those with symptoms can be tested through the Health Department with an appointment. Drive-up sites through PanCare and Nation’s Best do not require symptoms but you must make an appointment. Drive-up sites with the Department of Health also do not require symptoms, but those sites have been recently overwhelmed.

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