Since the coronavirus first hit the U.S. private companies have developed new COVID-19 tests that can reduce result turnaround time from days to minutes. On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida is using some of the newest rapid testing available and has now tested nearly 1 in 100 Floridians for the virus.
During a news conference, the Florida governor said even more people will be tested as the state is expanding testing requirements at the state-managed sites.
“Starting this Monday at Jacksonville, Orange County Conventions Center and in Dade, anybody who has coronavirus symptoms regardless of age can get tested,” DeSantis said. “And anyone who has made contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus can get tested.”
Previously, people over 65 had priority
Almost 163,000 people have been tested with results statewide as of Friday at 11 a.m., according to the Florida Department of Health dashboard.
Below is a breakdown of COVID-19 rapid testing currently available in Florida and plans to introduce antibody testing.
When the outbreak first hit the U.S., tests were sent to labs at the Centers for Disease Control and results could take days. Since then, private labs including Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp have started running the tests for results, dramatically decreasing the turnaround time on testing.
Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first rapid test for the respiratory illness. The test, made by the biotech company Cepheid, returns results in under an hour and doesn’t need to be processed in a lab. Cepheid’s machines won’t likely make it into doctor’s offices or urgent care centers, but will be good for hospitals and emergency rooms, reports health care news outlet StatNews.
Florida has already purchased some Cepheid rapid tests and sent them to hospitals. The governor would like all Florida hospitals to have rapid testing abilities.
5-13 minute testing
In the latest development in COVID-19 rapid testing, Abbott Labs has developed a small testing machine that returns results in 5 to 13 minutes. On March 27, the FDA approved emergency use for Abbott’s ID NOW platform.
The machine is about the size of a small toaster and doesn’t need to be in a lab or hospital setting, according to Abbott’s website.
How it works: A sample is added to the machine, a chemical solution is used to crack open the virus releasing its genetic ID and using molecular testing technologies ID NOW detects the presence of the virus by identifying a small section of the virus’ genome, then amplifies that portion until there is enough to be detected.
The company said it’s working to produce 50,000 tests per day using the small testing boxes.
The governor said some Jacksonville-area hospitals have received the Abbott ID NOW testing kits but he would like all Florida hospitals to have the 5-minute testing machines.
“This will be a game changer,” DeSantis said.
The ID Now platform has also been used to test for Infuenza types A and B, as well was as Strep A.
Antibody or Serological testing
DeSantis said Florida heath officials are looking at FDA-approved COVID-19 antibody tests, known as Serological tests.
According to the FDA, “Serological tests measure the amount of antibodies or proteins present in the blood when the body is responding to a specific infection, like COVID-19.”
In simple terms, “the test detects the body’s immune response to the infection caused by the virus rather than detecting the virus itself," according to the FDA.
The FDA has approved the use of a rapid Serological test developed by Cellex, which delivers results in about 15 to 20 minutes based on a blood sample.
Why this matters: Some research indicates persons who have developed antibodies are thought to have immunity from COVID-19, according to the governor.
“It will give us a sense of how much this virus has actually penetrate the community,” DeSanits said. “You have people who are studying this at Oxford and Stanford, and a lot of people think this may have been way more prevalent than we though people just don’t devolpe symptoms for it.”
On Monday, DeSantis said Florida has put in “a big order” of the tests, although it’s unclear when those arrive.
The governor didn’t give a timeline for when COVID-19 antibody testing would be available.