TAMPA (WFLA) – The demand remains high for COVID-19 testing and we learn as many as one million test kits expired in a state-run warehouse. The revelation is drawing sharp criticism from one of the Democratic candidates challenging Governor Ron DeSantis this year.
Omicron is spreading in the Tampa Bay community and many people want a test.
Right now, the United States Food and Drug Administration is determining if, despite that expiration date the test kits are still salvageable.
In recent days, there have been long lines as Floridians wait hours for a COVID-19 test including at the Al Barnes Park site in Tampa.
“I tried standing in the line, but it’s a 3 hour wait around the buildings,” one woman said.
On Thursday, the state acknowledged that between 800 thousand to 1 million Abbott rapid test kits have expired in a warehouse with the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
The issue was initially exposed last week by Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running to oust Gov. DeSantis.
“This is a complete failure of the governor’s administration,” said Fried. “How dare him now put blame on President Biden for not having enough tests when we were sitting on almost a million tests in the state of Florida.”
Fried says she never knew about the existence of these tests and allowing them to expire is negligent at best, heartless at worst.
“We all know that his philosophy is less tests means less cases,” Fried said.
Gov. DeSantis says there was no demand for the test kits that were manufactured a year ago.
“They’ve been sending them out as requested, there was no withholding anything,” Gov. DeSantis said at a news conference in West Palm Beach. “There just weren’t a lot of requests in September, October, November.”
When the kits were close to expiring, Florida asked the FDA to extend the expiration date, and they did.
But on Dec. 30, the kits were still in the warehouse. The state asked for a second extension. Gov. DeSantis says if the feds authorize it, the test kits will be rolled out into the community.
“If they’re not accurate, we don’t want to send out inaccurate tests,” Gov. DeSantis said.
Fried says the governor should have used his existing relationships with hospitals and pharmacies to swap out tests, ensuring those that are about to expire would be immediately used.
Meantime, the governor made an announcement about a different set of test kits on Thursday.
The state has shipped approximately one million at-home tests to nursing homes and other vulnerable communities.
We did receive a response from the Florida Department of Health. The agency sent us a statement that reads in part:
“To suggest that the Florida Department of Health waited around for these test kits to expire is simply false. The FDA granted the test manufacturer a 3-month extension in May of 2021. The original expiration of the test kits in question was September 2021. The manufacturer has also informed us that they have submitted another extension request,” a department spokesperson said.