BinaxNOW COVID-19 Rapid Test: Courtesy — Image by: Abbott
Between 800,000 and 1 million COVID-19 rapid test kits were left to expire inside a Florida warehouse amid a nationwide shortage caused by the winter surge of coronavirus cases. Like many other Americans, Floridians have faced extremely long waits at testing sites for weeks, making the demand for at-home tests skyrocket.
During a news conference held by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Kevin Guthrie, the director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, confirmed that the stockpile of rapid tests, manufactured by Abbott Laboratories, sat untouched.
“We had between 800,000 and a million test kits, Abbott rapid test kits, in our warehouse that did expire,” Guthrie told reporters, adding that they were rendered ineffective sometime “before December 26 to December 30.”
Guthrie added that there was not adequate demand for them, even though people have reported waiting hours in line to get tested, specifically in Central Florida. “We tried to give them out prior to that, but there was not a demand for it,” Guthrie told reporters. The surge in testing began around mid-December.
During the same news conference, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he planned to ask President Biden for an extension of the tests’ expiration deadline before revealing plans to send one million at-home COVID-19 rapid test kits to long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and other residences with a high number of seniors in the state.
“Having a stockpile was the right thing to do. If we had done the opposite, we would have run out,” DeSantis said. “No one really wanted them for many, many months.”
“The thing is, if they’re not authorized, if they’re not accurate, we don’t want to send inaccurate tests,” DeSantis continued.
In recent weeks, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have spiked throughout the Sunshine State, thanks to the fast-spreading omicron variant. According to John Hopkins University, the state is seeing 37,563 new cases a day on average. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported 59,487 new cases in Florida, with 4.4 million cases confirmed throughout the state during the pandemic. Florida is also among the top five states for new COVID-19 cases per capita in the last seven days.
The CDC continues to recommend for those who test positive to “isolate for 5 days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), follow that by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter.”
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