ORLANDO, Fla. – After running out of supplies sent by the federal government, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the coronavirus testing site at the Orange County Convention Center will remain open with support from the state.
DeSantis said in a news conference Thursday that the drive-thru site was one of at least three federally supported COVID-19 testing centers in Florida, which means all testing kits and personal protective equipment worn by those giving the swabs were provided by the federal government through contracts with LapCorp and Quest. Those contracts end Friday, according to the governor.
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Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Convention Center said the site only had enough tests to last through Sunday but had requested more federal assistance.
Instead, DeSantis announced Thursday that in an effort to keep the highly populated test site running, he has directed state officials to send thousands of swabs and national guard members to operate it.
With the state’s support, the governor also hopes to expand the number of tests given at the site each day.
Previously, the site was able to conduct 250 tests on most days. The governor said that since it is no longer under federal restrictions, it should be able to accommodate more. DeSantis said his goal is to see about 750-800 tests done per day.
To ensure higher traffic, the governor said the site would need to expand its testing criteria. Typically at drive- thru sites in Florida, testing has been available to first responders, health care workers and people 65 and older who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, DeSantis said. The governor said the Florida Department of Health is working to expand that even more.
The Orange County Convention Center had already expanded its testing criteria earlier this month so people of all ages can receive a test if the person has a temperature of 99.6 or higher and respiratory symptoms. A person can also now be tested if they have an underlying health condition.
According to the governor, more than 150,000 tests have been conducted statewide.
Since operations began last month, medical professionals at the Orange County Convention Center drive-thru coronavirus testing site have collected thousands of samples from patients fearing they could be suffering from COVID-19.
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Free testing is offered without an appointment every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but, until the governor announces looser restrictions, patients must be a first responder or health care worker, or meet the criteria outlined by the testing site.