SARASOTA, Fla. – Speaking at a coronavirus testing site in Sarasota on Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he plans to announce details on a mobile testing lab that will be able to travel to hot spots and added antibody testing at state-run drive-thru testing sites.
DeSantis said concrete details about the RV lab will be announced Wednesday while the antibody testing will be unveiled later this week.
Both initiatives will help expand coronavirus testing across the state, an important element of easing restrictions as Florida enters phase one of reopening.
Based on the results from testing on Monday, DeSantis said Florida is on the right path and has met the threshold to allow restaurants and other retailers to start accepting customers again.
“Yesterday the state of Florida reported the most number of test results since we’ve started this. We got 23,884 test results out of that massive batch. It only yielded 589 new Florida cases and so if you look at the percent positive, which is something we tracked very closely, yesterday’s test results have got to be the lowest percent positive, since we’ve been doing any type of major testing, but it was about 2.61% of all the new tests that came in, were positive, so that puts us at a 97-plus percent negative rate,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said the RV lab will be the first of its kind and will focus on going to long-term care facilities to test the most vulnerable populations. Test results will be provided in about 45 minutes. It will go to centers where there are confirmed COVID-19 patients as well as facilities where there aren’t to test to see if there are any asymptomatic individuals who could be spreading the deadly respiratory illness without knowing it.
The governor also announced new rules designed to prevent any outbreaks at those facilities. Any patient who needs to move into a nursing home or a similar center from a hospital will need to test negative for COVID-19 before being admitted, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
If a patient tests positive for COVID-19 while in a facility that does not have an isolation unit or other tools necessary to prevent the illness from spreading, then that patient will need to be moved to a facility that is equipped to treat him or her.
“So you’re looking at 60% of the fatalities in the state of Florida are folks who are 75 and up. Most of those folks had one or more comorbidity and so we understand who the most vulnerable groups are for the coronavirus," DeSantis said. "We also understand the people, you’re 50 and under, no conditions, you’re low risk, and that that’s a good thing to know, but it does require us to continue to do all that we’ve done, and really make it even stronger for supporting our long-term care facilities.”
In addition to standard testing, DeSantis is also looking to give Floridians the option to take antibody tests to determine whether they could have some immunity. Antibodies are believed to develop about two weeks after infection but it’s unknown how long they could protect a person from reinfection.
According to the governor, Florida has ordered 200,000 serological tests that will be administered at state-run drive-thru coronavirus testing sites.
This type of testing could also help identify people who, at one point, contracted COVID-19 but never realized it because they either had no symptoms or very mild symptoms that wouldn’t warrant medical attention.
“What (researchers are) finding is the number of documented cases is one thing, the number of people with the antibodies is far, far in excess of the number of people who’ve actually tested positive with a diagnostic test,” DeSantis said.
More walk-up testing sites are also on tap along with drive-thru sites slated to open in Brevard and Volusia counties, Florida’s Division of Emergency Management director Jared Moskowitz said.
He added that the sites will have the capacity to do 750 tests per day, even though most only require 500 to 600 daily tests.
State officials will continue to monitor test results as Florida eventually looks toward entering phase two of reopening.
“We’re going safe, smart, step by step. We’re being cautiously judicious on this,” DeSantis said.