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Florida Tops 1 Million Coronavirus Cases As Testing Demand Grows

Florida passed a bitter milestone Tuesday, as more than 1 million people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, according to the Florida Department of Health.

This tally comes amid longer waiting times for testing after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The vehicle lines for testing at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg have been so long that officials were warning people to go elsewhere. Drivers had to wait up to two hours to get the rapid testing that is being offered there. One day last week, more than 1,400 people were tested in the stadium's parking lot.

Josh Boatwright, a spokesman for Pinellas County, says the lines won't likely shorten anytime soon.

"I think the combination of it being the holiday season and obviously the rise in cases statewide, I do believe we'll continue to see a lot of interest in testing, particularly around the holidays, before and after," he said, "so going into the next holiday and Christmas we would anticipate another large spike in testing interest.

"We did see a lot of demand going into the (Thanksgiving) holiday, and I think a lot of people coming back from holiday travel or maybe having seen family members or friends that they don't live with on a regular basis are going to get tested."

Florida has become only the third state to pass 1 million cases, behind California and Texas. It comes one day after Gov. Ron DeSantis called once again for keeping schools open for in-person instruction in the spring.

DeSantis last week extended an order banning municipalities from issuing fines from violating pandemic-related mandates - such as wearing face masks or limiting restaurant capacity - without justification.

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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.