Governor Ron DeSantis announced the planned opening of additional COVID-19 testing sites across the state on Monday morning, including locations in Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale.
Speaking at the Broward Health Medical Center in Ft. Lauderdale, DeSantis addressed concerns regarding high transmission rates of the Omicron COVID variant, committing to increased testing availability, and the rollout of monoclonal antibody treatments, of which DeSantis says the state requested 30,000 doses of from Washington D.C.
“We were concerned about what was happening with the taking back of monoclonal antibody supplies. The government stopped sending both Regeneron and the Eli Lilly monoclonal, and that was based on some preliminary study saying that it may not be as effective against Omicron,” said the governor. “But of course, Omicron isn’t the only variant out there, and it’s something that we actually have seen applied to Omicron patients and seeing that their symptoms were resolved. It’s not clear that this is something that won’t be a benefit. It may not be as effective as it was against Delta, but we want it to be something available to patients.”
DeSantis made clear that though a large majority of the cases in Miami-Dade County, a current hotspot for COVID in the state, are suspected to be Omicron, there’s no present method of quickly testing for the strain an infected person incubates. Most of the critically ill patients in hospitals are suspected to have the Delta variant.
Despite weakened symptoms present in those infected, Omicron is the most transmittable form of COVID-19 that we have seen, resulting in a record 77,848 new cases on Dec. 30th, leading to concern across the state.
“[Florida Department of Health] hasn’t made a post since CHRISTMAS! Testing lines for COVID-19 all over the state are hours long and schools are back in session,” said gubernatorial candidate Annette Taddeo on Twitter during the Governor’s press conference. “Where’s the leadership, [Ron DeSantis]?”
DeSantis chalked up long testing site lines as the main public health issue Floridians face right now, directly causing today’s announcement. He also touted the ability to increase the existing testing footprint, as well as being able to add an additional 5 to 10 new sites if demand necessitates it.
However, DeSantis said that the state’s proficiency in carrying out these tasks is contingent on the federal government sending the requested doses.
“We have pushed out from the Department of Emergency management in the last 6 months over 1,500 requests for tests,” said DeSantis.
In the case that the Biden administration fails to deliver supplies, DeSantis stated that the legislature set aside nearly $1 billion to purchase its own supply of testing equipment and monoclonal treatments if there are pharmaceutical companies willing to sell to the state.
DeSantis also spoke on the claims that he was avoiding public light following criticisms from politicians, where he said he was accompanying his wife with her breast cancer chemotherapy, as well as working out of Miami to strategize COVID response plans.
“This is something as a husband I feel that I should be doing. I’ve accompanied her for each of her chemotherapy treatments, and she’s there for a long time, DeSantis said. “It’s a draining thing. When she’s done with it it’s not something easy to see. I think she’s going to end up good on the other end of it.”