Governor Ron DeSantis announced on Thursday morning his plan to distribute upwards of 1 million COVID-19 at-home testing kits to nursing homes and long-term care facilities in order to test at-risk senior citizens.
Florida has been hit particularly hard by the Omicron variant of COVID-19, setting a state pandemic record of 77,848 new cases just one week ago. Given Omicron’s high rate of transmission, the distribution of tests will help subside community spread for the most vulnerable Floridians.
Extensive testing lines have been a chief issue facing Floridians in recent days, as many are unable to receive a test as drive-through lines in Miami-Dade and surrounding south Florida counties were reportedly reaching five hours long.
“We have the ability to send out up to a million at-home tests, and what we’re going to do is start by sending them to nursing homes and our long-term care facilities, and then beyond that, we’ll focus on senior-heavy communities,” said the governor. “When you’re talking about senior care facilities, those are the demographics that are more likely to take a positive test and parlay that into treatment, which we do support and want to get quickly.”
Testing allocation will be sent out according to how many licensed beds a facility has, with a re-order process to follow where health centers can request additional kits through an online portal.
DeSantis was joined by state Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Lapado, where he subsisted in his message of priority testing that places emphasis on testing those portions of the population that are at the highest risk of contracting deadly symptoms from a COVID-19 infection.
“Testing people for a respiratory virus when they have no symptoms is abnormal. What we did before this pandemic was what was normal. That is, if you have symptoms, we’ll test you, and if you have symptoms, we’ll treat you,” said Ladapo. “ It does not make sense to be running around with swabs testing perfectly healthy people.”
Ladapo’s newest stance on testing, which he initially spoke about during a Jan. 3rd press conference alongside DeSantis, has received sharp criticism from political opponents, including gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried, who claimed earlier this week that the state was sitting on a stockpile of unused, now expired, testing kits.
Fried’s suspicions were confirmed during today’s press conference: “We had between 800,000 and 1,000,000 tests in our warehouse that did expire,” said Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie.
“Hold him accountable,” said Fried. “When I told you about this before the end of the year they lied, they tried to distract. Without your support and pressure, they might have gotten away with it.”
The rollout of the testing kits for at-risk facilities is expected to occur in the coming days, as the state tries to mitigate the spread of COVID and administer necessary treatment.