COVID-19 testing in Florida should focus only on residents experiencing symptoms or those with risk factors, Florida’s surgeon general said Tuesday when announcing a plan to revise guidance for COVID testing.
At a press conference in Naples, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo argued against federal health authorities’ testing guidelines for COVID-19, even as COVID cases rise and the omicron variant continues to spread.
Ladapo announced that the Florida Department of Health is “revising our testing and our testing guidance” for COVID-19 but said that “it’s not about restricting access to testing,” meaning Floridians will still be able to get tested at sites regardless of the new testing standards.
“We are going to be returning our guidance from the CDC’s current ‘test everyone all the time’…We’re scaling that back and we are coming back to something sensible,” according to Ladapo and his views. “We really, really want you to get tested if you have risk factors.”
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, individuals are recommended to get tested if they have COVID symptoms or have been exposed to someone with the virus. In a press release last week, the CDC said, “for all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] at day 5 after exposure.”
Ladapo continued: “And if you have no symptoms, please don’t get tested. You’re so unlikely to benefit from that and you could be harmed. We’ve seen how children have been exposed and now they got to disrupt mom’s schedule and dad’s schedule. Again, this is guidance, you can still go get a test. I definitely understand you want to get tested before seeing mom or grandma or grandpa.”
Several news outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel, reported that testing sites throughout Florida have seen large crowds that have led to long wait times, at a time when COVID cases have been surging.
When asked by a reporter at the press conference about long wait times for COVID-19 testing, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the strain on testing sites is due to frivolous testing on healthy people with no symptoms. DeSantis also said the state will “step up and provide” at-home COVID tests because, he said, the federal government hasn’t distributed tests to Florida.
“Just understand the purpose of testing is to then tell us what we need to do to help achieve a positive outcome for you,” DeSantis said. “When you have people that are just healthy, and they say ‘oh I saw on the news I am going to run and get tested to see if I’m sick’ that ends up creating I think more stress on our testing capacity.”
DeSantis continued: “Because there has been such a rush on testing nationwide, what you find is the vast majority of people being tested actually do not have symptoms.”
Meanwhile, following the press event, Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando slammed the DeSantis administration on Twitter, saying the Republican governor “not only ignores the need for more testing sites but now his administration is trying to dissuade people from getting tested.”
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