Florida has been forced to close coronavirus testing centres for up to a week because of the approaching tropical storm Isaias.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) said in a statement: “All state-supported drive-thru and walk-up COVID-19 testing sites will temporarily close at 5pm on Thursday, July 30, in anticipation of impacts from Potential Tropical Cyclone Nine.
“Testing sites are closing out of an abundance of caution to keep individuals operating and attending the sites safe.
“All sites have free standing structures including tents and other equipment, which cannot withstand tropical storm force winds, and could cause damage to people and property if not secured.”
Strong winds and heavy rain are expected to batter the east coast of the state from Friday, as the intense weather system makes landfall after blowing in through the Caribbean.
Free coronavirus testing will still be available through local county health departments, the FDEM said.
While there is no set time for re-opening the centres, they will come back into operation on a “rolling basis”, the body said on its website.
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“The sites will remain closed until they are safe to reopen, with all sites anticipated to be reopened at the latest by 8am, Wednesday, August 5,” it said.
The closures could hardly come at a worse time for Floridians. The state’s department of health confirmed 9,446 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to more than 451,000.
It also confirmed another 216 deaths, the second day in a row the state broke its record – taking the total number of fatalities to 6,333.
California and Texas also logged one-day records for deaths from the disease on Wednesday, as the US as a whole continues to post high numbers of new cases and deaths each day.
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A further 1,074 deaths were reported in the US on Wednesday, bringing the total up to 150,159, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Deaths in the country are rising at their fastest rate in two months, while the number of infections last week passed four million – nearly double that of Brazil, which is in second place worldwide.
The US also has the highest coronavirus death toll in the world by far and infection rates have spiked in several states, especially in the south and west, this month.