THE VILLAGES, Fla. – Florida has now begun receiving 400,000 rapid coronavirus testing kits a week from the federal government. On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said these 15-minute tests will first go to assisted living centers, schools and state-run testing sites.
Since the pandemic first arrived in Florida, the state has prioritized testing in the most vulnerable population, which includes those over 60 years old and with pre-existing health conditions. The same will go for these new kits, some of which have already been sent to long-term care facilities. About 800 facilities, out of Florida’s 4,000, have rapid tests now, according to DeSantis, with plans to send kits to at least 3,200.
DeSantis said these kits will help residents receive more visitors. Florida long-term care facilities just began allowing visitors within the last month with restrictions after six months of very limited contact due to the pandemic.
No facility can allow visitors unless 14 days have passed without the onset of a new positive case in either a resident or staff member but essential and compassionate care visitors are exempt from the 14-day rule.
“This can also help visitation in our long-term care facilities and so they’ll have the ability to do that, as they see fit. And again, using this new technology in a way that is protecting our most vulnerable and saving lives is really the key,” DeSantis said.
Of the 400,000 tests sent for this week, 180,000 are dedicated to senior-related communities and long-term care facilities.
Senior centers and assisted living facilities who haven’t received the rapid tests yet can email the state to request rapid testing kits at email@example.comFlorida.com, according to the governor. The email will prompt an automatic reply with a survey to collect more information.
Of the first round, 60,000 tests will be sent to school districts around the state. Those tests are for students, teachers or staff members who are showing symptoms.
DeSantis said he hopes this will prevent healthy people from needing to isolate.
“If you can get a 15-minute test, and you get the negative, then you don’t have to worry about isolating,” DeSantis said. “I think what we found is, there have been students that have been forced to isolate who are healthy, and I think healthy quarantining is not effective, it’s not something that we want to see done on a large scale.”
The Orange County Convention Center COVID-19 testing site, the busiest in the state, will also receive testing kits this week. About 60,000 rapid testing kits have been sent to state-run testing sites around Florida.
Normally, the rapid tests cost about $100 but Florida is not paying for the tests, only the overhead for administering them, because the kits were provided by the federal government.
In all, Florida is set to receive 6.4 million rapid testing kits in 400,000 increments. More than 150 million are being sent out across the country.