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Florida governor wants more rapid COVID-19, antibody tests available at hospitals

State’s completed coronavirus tests surpass 120,000

In this photo taken Sunday, April 5, 2020, laboratory technicians, seen behind a blue-tinted window, work on testing patient samples for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, at the Pathologists Lancet Kenya laboratory in Nairobi, Kenya. The company, which is offering tests to patients with a doctor's referral, was previously having to send samples to South Africa for testing but is now completing the testing in-house in Kenya. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)
In this photo taken Sunday, April 5, 2020, laboratory technicians, seen behind a blue-tinted window, work on testing patient samples for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, at the Pathologists Lancet Kenya laboratory in Nairobi, Kenya. The company, which is offering tests to patients with a doctor's referral, was previously having to send samples to South Africa for testing but is now completing the testing in-house in Kenya. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday the state has now surpassed 120,000 completed coronavirus tests, and that number continues to rise as new drive-thru testing sites are planned around the state.

“Over the last two or three weeks it’s been a dramatic increase in the state of Florida, and we’re now one of the top states for testing,” DeSantis said at a roundtable meeting.

The governor also spoke to the importance of rapid COVID-19 testing, which gives positive results within five minutes and negative results within 13 minutes of processing the sample. The test, created by Abott Labs, is not as widely available as many health officials would like, leaving testing centers to rely on collecting samples and having to send them off to a lab for analysis.

"This is really a game changer for protecting people in nursing homes, protecting healthcare workers, conserving hospital space,” DeSantis said. “Fortunately, those machines are in Florida now with a number of the hospital systems.”

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DeSantis said he is working with Abbott Labs to attempt to get the rapid tests in every major hospital in the state.

“You’re in a situation where someone shows up at the hospital, they’re coughing with the fever, you test them, and they’re negative for coronavirus. Well then you know they just got to go home and rest most likely,” DeSantis said. “When you have to wait 48 to 72 hours for a test result, those are people that you got to keep in the hospital, most likely, and you don’t necessarily know whether they’re positive or not. So in terms of conserving hospital space, I think it will be important.”

Many health officials, including DeSantis, want broader access to antibody testing that detects the presence of the coronavirus antibodies in a patient. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the antibody testing is particularly important because COVID-19 can be present in a person who shows the common symptoms of the disease or none at all.

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