The lines are back at COVID testing sites in Miami-Dade. Here’s how to navigate them

·5 min read

With Florida seeing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, long lines are forming again at some testing sites across Miami-Dade County. Some people are getting tested to travel, others because they were exposed to the disease or are experiencing symptoms.

At Tropical Park, which serves as a drive-through COVID testing and vaccine site, the line of cars twisted and turned through a path of orange cones on Thursday morning. They headed from the park’s entrance at Southwest 79th Avenue and Bird Road to the COVID site, an area of the park next to the Palmetto Expressway. The cars stay in a single file until they are split into separate lines for testing and vaccinations.

“I’ve never seen the cars at the entrance before. It was a long winding thing, oh no,” Michelle Prats said.

Prats is vaccinated but needed a COVID test to travel for work next week. She had an appointment to be tested at Tropical Park on Thursday. But when she saw lines that were “out of control,” she left.

She then made an appointment for the Salvation Army’s testing site at 911 W. Flagler St. in Little Havana. She arrived at her 3:15 p.m. appointment around 20 minutes before her scheduled time.

The line barely reached out of the lot. Some people were seen scrambling to find masks because they forgot to bring them, and one visitor used a napkin for protection.

“The site has been busy all year, some days slower than others,” Salvation Army Maj. Josue Prieto said in a phone interview Thursday morning, “but for the last four weeks, it’s increased.” The site usually gets busy in the mornings, slows down in the early afternoon and then picks up again.

People wait standing in line instead of in their car, making it a convenient location for anyone who lives in the area and doesn’t have transportation, Prieto said. It’s also the only government-supported testing site in Little Havana since the state-run testing site at loanDepot park, formerly Marlins Park, closed in late May.

Miami residents line up for COVID-19 testing on Thursday, July 22, at Salvation Army near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.
Miami residents line up for COVID-19 testing on Thursday, July 22, at Salvation Army near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Testing is also still available at other locations across the county — including retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens, community health centers and urgent care centers.

At the testing site in Tamiami Park in West Miami-Dade, the line of cars stretched out to Coral Way.

Not every site is seeing long wait times.

Dione Concha is traveling back to her home in Peru on Friday and completed a COVID-19 test in the mobile clinic behind Dolphin Mall. She said the test went smoothly, except for the 91-degree sun beaming down on the site.

She wished the site provided some shade for the visitors, but thankfully the line was only around 20 people midday, so she wasn’t in the heat too long.

Tips to make testing easier

Make an appointment. While some places accept walk-ins, appointments are still recommended. This should make the process quicker since you don’t have to register on-site.

Plan to arrive early, and use the bathroom before you go. Leave your house with some extra time to make sure you don’t get stuck in a traffic jam. And if you find yourself still in line past your appointment time, don’t stress. You’ll get tested.

Ask people you know where they got tested. We’ve been stuck in the pandemic for more than a year. You must know people who got tested. Ask them about where they got tested and what time they arrived. What was the line like? This could help you figure out where you want to go.

Don’t visit a popular COVID testing site. Everyone knows about the testing site at Tropical Park. Look through Miami-Dade’s online COVID test site locator for alternatives. Drive-through sites also usually draw larger crowds than walk-up sites.

Look for COVID testing sites near your home. This way, you’ll be able to visit another site if your first choice has a long line. Plus, you’ll be able to pass by through the day and see if the line is shorter in the morning or the afternoon. The Salvation Army site, for example, usually sees a slowdown in visitors in the early afternoon.

Check out COVID sites in Broward County. Maybe you work in Broward or just spend a lot of time there. Look for sites in the area. You can get tested anywhere although you’ll likely find some lines in Broward, too.

Make sure you know if the site is drive-through. If it is, you’ll want to fill up your tank with gas. The last thing you want to worry about is your gas needle on empty when you’re almost about to get your nose swabbed. If it’s a walk-up site, you might want to take a hat and maybe some water to help with the heat. Oh, and an umbrella for our summer showers.

Ask your doctor or clinic if they do testing. Check with pharmacies too. It might be a quicker alternative. Just keep in mind that unlike county-run sites, some places might charge a fee for testing, and depending on why you’re getting tested, your insurance might not cover it. CVS, for example, asks a list of questions to determine if you qualify for free testing or not. Tests also cost money at Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

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