DeSantis announces at-home COVID-19 tests for nursing homes, symptom-based Florida testing guidelines

Test kits to ship Thursday, arrive over weekend, governor says

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday the state will send “up to a million” at-home COVID-19 tests to nursing homes and long-term care facilities starting this week.

“As many of you know, the federal government has promised to send massive amounts of that into American communities, actually promise you could go online, request one and they would just mail it to your home, that has not materialized. And so we’ve tried to look and say, ‘Where can we make an impact?’” DeSantis said.

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Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo said the at-home testing initiative is sensible public health, and the example the state is setting.

“We’ve obtained tests and we’re directing them to where the tests are most likely to have a benefit, which is in communities and in environments where high risk individuals reside,” Ladapo said. “We’re not going to be following completely insensible, you know, wasteful, harmful, ridiculous policies for public health that we’re seeing, largely characterized as the policies that we’re seeing at the federal level.”

Ladapo described the soon-to-be published COVID-19 testing guidelines for Florida, suggesting again that people should only seek a test after they begin experiencing symptoms of the disease.

“That’s the direction that we’re moving to, as the governor said, we’re not restricting access, we’re just basically sort of unwinding the thinking that the national leadership has managed to unfortunately infuse many Americans with, and it’s this notion that if you’re healthy, you still need to go to get tested for something so that you can determine whether you’re sick, you know, think about that,” Ladapo said.

The governor said an asymptomatic “healthy” person going to get tested to figure out if they’re sick is “very low value testing.”

“At the end of the day, when you have an endemic respiratory virus, you’ve got the default that’s gotta be, you live your life. And then if you end up getting sick, then test to see what it is and then get treatment,” DeSantis said.

Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said the at-home tests will begin shipping out Thursday to nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which should receive the tests during the weekend.

“As Dr. Ladapo has already mentioned, it’s going to be symptom-based testing, high value testing, so everybody that’s in the facility is not going to get a test right off the bat,” Guthrie said.

More than 800,000 COVID-19 test kits expired last month in Florida because there was a low demand for them, Guthrie said.

“We had between 800,000 and a million test kits, Abbott rapid test kits, in our warehouse that did expire. We tried to get them out prior to that, but there was not a demand for (it). We received a three-month extension on those test kits, which ended up expiring between Dec. 26-Dec. 30,” Guthrie said. “Prior to that date, we did ask Abbott and the federal government for another three-month extension on those so that we can use those tests. We are still waiting to hear about that from HHS.”

DeSantis said the state will not prevent anyone who wants to get a COVID-19 test to find one regardless of what symptoms they’re feeling.

“In Florida, if you are, you know, healthy and low risk, if you want to test all the time, we are not going to stand in your way to do it. It’s a free state, but it’s not something that’s recommended, it’s not something that’s going to provide much of a value for you,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis also commented on the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. The governor said some observations of the anniversary will be a “politicized Charlie Foxtrot.”

“It’s not something that I’ve been concerned about in my job here, because quite frankly it’s not something that most Floridians have been have been concerned about,” DeSantis said. “They’re concerned about their jobs, education, inflation, gas prices, all those things, and I wish the Congress of the United States would be concerned about those pressing issues as well.”

About the Author:

Brandon, a UCF grad, joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021. Before joining News 6, Brandon worked at WDBO.