TALLAHASSEE – Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday defended his administration’s decision to phase out up to a million Covid-19 rapid test kits, a move that comes as he is increasingly criticized by Democrats for handling the Omicron surge.
Florida Division of Emergency Management director Kevin Guthrie admitted the tests had expired during a news conference Thursday, and DeSantis tried Friday to explain why the state wasn’t distributing them. DeSantis has argued that the supply resulted from a lack of demand in the later half of 2021, accusing President Joe Biden’s administration of failing to grant extensions to keep the tests eligible – which happened for three months in September.
He said the people who had declined from the Delta variant in Florida in the second half of 2021 “did not take tests” for months.
“[Division of Emergency Management] has been asking for it for many, many weeks, ”said DeSantis on Friday. “Basically like her [the federal government] They always want enough tests when people need them, they send them down … the result is that we had a stash, but for many, many months no one really wanted them. “
In the days leading up to Thursday’s recording, DeSantis had been focused on erasing “test psychology,” essentially arguing against the practice that all individuals should get tests regardless of whether they show Covid-related symptoms while opposing railed the federal government for failing to provide tests.
The US Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for monitoring test expiration dates, has not returned a request for comment. DeSantis announced Thursday that in light of the recent spike in infections from the Omicron variant, its government will send a million self-administered Covid tests to government nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat who challenged DeSantis in 2022, had criticized the government for the stored tests, saying the problem made it clear that DeSantis was “unfit for duty”. Fried called the issue a “cover-up” after the DeSantis government initially rejected its claims last week, saying the nationally-elected Democrat “should stay on track”.
“During that time, they lied about it. They tried to cover it up. They said my allegations were unfounded. They called me a liar, “Fried said at a press conference on Thursday. “This governor is not fit for duty.”
New infections declined dramatically in Florida after a surge fueled by the Delta variant. But they have skyrocketed again in recent weeks with the Omicron variant, which is more contagious but leads to less severe cases. Florida has recorded an average of 55,271 new cases since the beginning of the year, a huge increase from most of 2021, and according to data released by Johns Hopkins University, more than 170,000 tests per day were performed in the state during that time.
“I made the population of our state aware over a week ago that the DeSantis administration was sitting on nearly a million tests, while the Floridians across our state were sitting in line for 4.5 hours,” Fried said during a press conference week .
Fried’s Thursday press conference resulted in another rejection from Health Department communications director Jeremy Redfern, who tweeted last week that Fried “needs to turn the blinker on and get back on track,” a sentiment he doubled after Guthrie did this to one had confirmed Millions of tests were carried out in a warehouse.
“And I’ll say it again: Nikki Fried has to turn on the turn signal and get back on track,” tweeted Redfern on Thursday.
The news of the expired tests also comes as the state rewrites its testing recommendations to “wind down” what Florida surgeon-general Joseph Ladapo called “the test psychology.” The new guidelines, released this week by the Florida Department of Health, state that testing for people without symptoms has no “clinical benefit” and that the focus should initially be on testing people who have symptoms or are at risk for Covid-19 19 complications are exposed.
Florida guidance on not getting tested if you are asymptomatic, even if you’ve come into close contact with someone who has the virus, is at odds with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. which also recommends those with no symptoms will be quarantined for five days if they test positive because they can still spread the virus.
“We will work to dissolve the test psychology, which our federal leadership has unfortunately managed to reach most of the country,” said Ladapo during a press conference on Tuesday, which DeSantis also attended.
“It is really time that people live, make the decisions they want about vaccination, enjoy the fact that many people have natural immunity,” he added, “and dispel that concern that only Covid is pushing the boundaries and Limitations determined and “possibilities of life.”