JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a news briefing Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Orange County could expect changes in the way some COVID-19 testing sites are run to prevent further backlogging of test results.
As cases of coronavirus continue to rise throughout the state, Floridians have been flocking to get tested for the contagious disease, regardless of symptom presentation.
“The problem with that has been the lab turnaround, it’s just getting backed up, you know, we have contracts with some of these labs and the goal was 48 hours they thought they could do 24 - I never thought that would happen - but we are hoping about 48-hour turnaround, you’re seeing turnaround time that’s just taking a lot longer,” DeSantis said. “The tests get backlogged, they’re going every which way. And so we want to figure out ‘OK, how can we address that knowing the capacity limits?' and so what we’re working on with the Department of Emergency Management hopefully be able to announce it next week, is we’re going to start having dedicated lanes for symptomatic people.”
DeSantis said that he hopes to contract with companies who offer self-swab tests to allow for a quicker turnaround time.
“We believe that we probably could get that (turnaround time) within inside of 72 hours, which would be very, very helpful. Part of the problem is when the tests are taking a long time to get turned around, if you’re asymptomatic, what are you supposed to do? Stay home and wait if you’re not, if you’re not sick? Then if you’re symptomatic obviously you need to know whether you have coronavirus or you have something else,” DeSantis said. “So we’re going to be doing that in a few of the counties... but for now we’re targeting Dade, Broward and Orange counties for that just because they have the highest volume, right now, but hopefully we’ll be able to expand it further as we go down the line.”
As testing continues to be in high demand and new cases of COVID-19 continue to be diagnosed, DeSantis said that he has been in contact with the White House regarding securing additional supplies of the antiviral drug remdesivir.
“I’m working with the administration in Washington, the Vice President, Secretary of (the Department of Health and Human Services) to expedite additional shipments of remdesivir, that’s a therapeutic that is being used in hospitals throughout Florida,” DeSantis said. “Most of the physicians I’ve spoken to have been happy with, with the results with their patients. And there was a schedule, the next shipment was scheduled sometime next week, but we think that we need to get it here as soon as possible, so that is in the pipeline. We’re going to be first in line on that, we hope to be able to have those delivered, it may come to the state of Florida, then we’ll deliver it.”
DeSantis said that the state’s initial plan for future shipments of remdesivir was for the drug to be distributed directly to hospitals, but said that it may be easier for the state to distribute the drug.
“That’s a big priority for our hospitals and it’s a big priority for our administration,” DeSantis said.
When asked if he would be open to accepting assistance from other states like New York in the fight to curb the spread of COVID-19, DeSantis said Florida has what it needs to provide for coronavirus patients.
“We got 6,000 ventilators just you know sitting idle so we don’t necessarily need it. Look, I think that if you look at how Florida approached certain things like long term care facilities, you know, I think our approach was superior. We prohibited sick nursing home residents from being discharged back into the facilities, a lot of the other states did the opposite and I think the results, you know were, were better in Florida,” DeSantis said. “It’s still a tough issue, you got a lot going on. So I think, I think that approach is superior but, you know, we don’t need ventilators we don’t need (personal protective equipment).”
On Thursday, the Florida Department of Health reported a total of 232,718 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state since March 1, as well as a total 4,111 deaths related to the disease. As of Thursday, 17,167 individuals have been hospitalized in Florida due to COVID-19 since the pandemic first hit the state in early March.