| Tampa International Airport began offering COVID-19 testing to all travelers this week, the first U.S.-based airport to offer a pilot program with two types of FDA-approved COVID-19 tests. The tests are available to all departing and arriving passengers, regardless of gate locations, which airlines they are booked on or their final destinations. The pilot program, in partnership with BayCare Health System, is open to all ticketed passengers who are flying or have flown within three days and can show proof of travel.
"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,” airport CEO Joe Lopano said in a news release.
Tampa's COVID-19 testing pilot program began Oct. 1 and is offered on a walk-in basis through Oct. 31. Testing is available seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., before security checkpoints inside the Main Terminal near the Airside F shuttle.
Travelers may choose between the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test ($125) and the rapid antigen test ($57). PCR nasal swab test results are more accurate and are broadly accepted domestically and internationally. If PCR test results are required in passengers’ destinations, it is recommended that travelers take the test three days before departure; results are expected within 48 hours.
The rapid antigen test is more accurate within five days of the onset of symptoms and can offer same-day reassurance for arriving or departing travelers; results are available within 15 minutes.
Alexandra Bouzas was about to board her flight to Newark Thursday morning when she stopped by the Tampa airport's COVID-19 testing site. A friend she was going to visit in New Jersey saw an article about the testing pilot, so Bouzas decided to get the rapid antigen test. After swabbing her nose, she handed off the specimen to a nurse, who notified her 15 minutes later with the result: negative.