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COVID-19 testing sites temporarily close in Palm Beach County as storm nears

As Tropical Depression Eta makes its way toward Florida, Palm Beach County on Friday became the first in South Florida to announce it is halting COVID-19 testing at seven locations.

The seven testing sites are run by Palm Beach County, which are part of the Health Care District of Palm Beach County. The sites will be closed until further notice, starting Saturday. The lone exception will be the facility at FITTEAM Ballpark, which will remain open on Saturday only.

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Once the storm passes, the county will evaluate all of the sites before reopening.

The decision to pause testing comes at an inopportune time as coronavirus cases are starting to surge across Florida and testing demand is on the rise. Some sites are experiencing a two-hour backup and others keep facing an early morning crush of people waiting in line to get swabbed before work or school.

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Tropical Depression Eta is expected redevelop into a tropical storm, but models are in disagreement about where the storm will head. Some say the system will hover around Cuba while others think it will come closer to South Florida on Monday or Tuesday, according to forecasters.

Bill Johnson, Palm Beach County’s emergency management director, said the biggest concern is potential flooding and gusty winds from the Eta.

“The Palm Beach County [Emergency Operation Center] is closely monitoring the storm system and at this time we do not intend on declaring any evacuations or anticipate opening any evacuation shelters," Johnson said. "However, if conditions do change, we are prepared to respond accordingly.”

Whether testing sites will be closed in other counties hasn’t yet been announced.

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