Florida to receive 6.4 million rapid COVID-19 test kits from federal government

400,000 tests for schools, long-term care facilities

Jackson Health System Public Safety Lt. Jesus Cendan, right, hands out free personal protective equipment to healthcare workers at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Miami. Hundreds of workers lined up for the PPE provided by the New York nonprofit Cut Red Tape 4 Heroes. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Florida will receive 400,000 rapid-test kits a week that can be used to detect COVID-19 infections at schools, senior centers and long-term care facilities, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday at a news conference in Clearwater.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management will take the lead in distributing the test kits, which are coming from the federal government, said division Diretor Jared Moskowitz, who joined DeSantis at Morton Plant Hospital for the announcement.

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“We will do our part to make sure that this gets out as fast as possible,” said Moskowitz, whose agency has been in charge of distributing personal protective equipment, such as gowns, face shields, gloves and masks to long-term care facilities.

The federal government requires that the tests be performed in settings that operate under what is known as a CLIA Certificate of Waiver, which, DeSantis said, requires that the tests be conducted by nurses. But DeSantis said the state will request a waiver of that requirement, saying it isn’t a good use of nurses' time.

“We’re going to work really hard on this. This is significant. I’ve been frustrated with how the testing has gone, because it seems anytime we did something, then there would be something that happened. Maybe the labs are backed up. Maybe this, maybe that,” DeSantis said. “This is probably as happy as I’ve been about testing in an awful long time.”

The rapid test is one of two diagnostic tests for COVID-19 that indicate whether a person has an active coronavirus infection.

Molecular tests, such as RT-PCR tests, detect the virus' genetic material but can take from a day to a week to get the results. Antigen tests detect specific proteins on the surface of the virus and come back within 15 minutes. However, antigen tests can have false negatives, and results may need to be confirmed with molecular tests.

Nevertheless, DeSantis said Tuesday that he may use some of the rapid test kits coming to Florida to supplant PCR testing that the state is conducting, saying it would reduce costs by 75%.

In all, DeSantis said Florida would receive 6.4 million rapid test kits under the federal government’s plan to provide more than 150 million kits across the nation. The federal plan was first announced in August and reiterated Monday by President Donald Trump.