COVID-19 Diagnosis Alters Wedding Plans for Brandon Resident

October 14, 2020

For months, scientists have said the biggest benefit of COVID-19 testing is raising individuals’ awareness they have the virus and should isolate. Rishay Nathoo is the perfect anecdotal evidence.

Nathoo was headed to New Jersey for a family wedding in early October until he tested positive for COVID-19 on the first day of a testing pilot at Tampa International Airport (TPA) run by BayCare. The 25-year-old, one of dozens of people served on that first day, Oct. 1, quickly decided to stay home to ensure he wouldn’t infect others, including loved ones at the wedding.

“I feel lucky because my symptoms are mild, and could have overlooked them,” said Nathoo. “I’m just glad I got tested. I could’ve exposed everyone on my flight, my family and all the wedding guests.”

Nathoo, an engineer living in Brandon, had been curtailing his leisure activity in the COVID-19 era, but he’d recently visited an indoor bar to watch the Tampa Bay Lightning’s path to the Stanley Cup championship. He’d been having mild symptoms: “I woke up with a headache and chills for a couple days…I thought it was exhaustion, but I decided to get tested just to be cautious given I had my flight planned that weekend.” 

Nathoo opted for the $57 antigen test – receiving his result in about 15 minutes. A BayCare nurse shared with him he shouldn’t travel but needed to isolate. He agreed. A day later, the nurse called to check on him, something he appreciated.

Stories like Nathoo’s are the exact reason TPA was interested in partnering with BayCare on a pilot project to see if greater test access could improve safety for travel and the community. To date, more than 1,000 passengers have availed themselves of the service. And airport officials believe the program may have contributed to a recent uptick in passenger reservations. This past weekend, TPA saw its highest numbers since traffic dropped in late March and surpassed 30,000 passengers in one day.

“We feel a responsibility to explore safe and affordable ways to keep our travelers, their destinations and our community safe,” said Joe Lopano, TPA’s chief executive officer. “We are glad to work with BayCare to create a pilot program that gives us a step in the right direction.”

BayCare for months has been among the leading COVID-19 testing providers, launching the region’s first COVID-19 drive-thru centers in mid-March in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco counties. Since then, BayCare has continued to provide testing in various settings, including with partners, such as TPA. To date, BayCare has administered more than 240,000 COVID-19 tests across all its hospitals, doctor’s offices and testing sites.

“We're proud to work with TPA to test passengers and help make travel safer,” said Donna St. Louis, RN, vice president of BayCare’s Business Development. “Testing people like Mr. Nathoo demonstrates the importance of testing and its impact on the mitigation of the spread. Who knows how many individuals he might have inadvertently infected had he traveled?” 

The TPA testing site will continue operation through at least October for any ticketed passenger that is flying or have flown within three days. The site, located inside the Main Terminal near the Airside F shuttle, offers to passengers the rapid antigen test and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test. The PCR COVID-19 test costs $125 and the antigen test costs $57. 

For more information about the TPA COVID-19 testing site, visit https://baycare.org/TPA-Testing.