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Florida Will Pause Coronavirus Testing Due To Impending Storm

Updated at 11:11 p.m. ET

Florida will stop testing for the coronavirus for several days due to concerns about the potential impact from Tropical Storm Isaias.

After the state's testing sites close Thursday evening, they won't reopen until at least Tuesday morning, Candy Sims of the Florida Department of Health in Broward County told NPR. Some locations could be closed for longer, she added, depending on the weather.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management first announced the change in an email to test site managers on Wednesday, according to Tallahassee TV news station WCTV.

As of Wednesday evening, Tropical Storm Isaiah was steaming among the Leeward Islands, roughly 155 miles south of Ponce, Puerto Rico, with sustained winds of 50 mph, and moving west-northwest at 20 mph.

The system has triggered storm watches and warnings for at least a dozen islands as its predicted path takes it toward Florida's southern tip. The state sits squarely in the center of the system's forecast cone; it could begin to affect Florida by late Friday, the hurricane center said.

The storm is expected to bring heavy rains and wind gusts. And unlike Tropical Storm Gonzalo, the small storm that recently passed through the Caribbean, this system is large: "Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 275 miles," the hurricane center said.

The Miami-Dade Office of Emergency Management is advising residents to be in a "ready" mode as the storm approaches, urging them to review their disaster kits and emergency plans. As of Wednesday afternoon, all county services continued their normal operations.

Florida has reported more than 451,000 coronavirus cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Florida's tally is second only to California(475,305 cases) among U.S. states.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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