TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida is working to begin antibody testing to get a better idea of how COVID-19 impacts the population, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday.
During his daily coronavirus update, the governor said the state was looking to acquire FDA-approved tests that will determine if someone has COVID-19 antibodies.
“There’s a lot of these tests out there but it’s important, you’ve gotta get the test that’s FDA approved for this particular coronavirus,” the governor said. “This isn’t the only coronavirus that circulates. So some of these tests will determine if you have antibodies for any coronavirus. Well if you had a common cold or something, that’s much different than this.”
The governor said the testing will help give a sense of how much the virus has actually spread in Florida.
“You have people who are studying this [virus] in places like Oxford and Stanford and a lot of people think this may have been way more prevalent than we thought, just a lot of people don’t develop symptoms from it,” he explained. “So having an antibody test and doing some sampling will give us an idea of how much it has penetrated.”
“It will also give us a more accurate denominator,” Gov. DeSantis added. “If we test people and they’re positive, we say that’s a case. But there are probably a lot of people who never even saw medical care who have had this virus because they just didn’t develop severe symptoms. Or maybe they didn’t develop symptoms at all.”
DeSantis noted that it’s also important for people to know if they have the antibodies. According to the governor, the general idea is those who do have developed a sort of immunity.
“The general thought is you develop some sort of immunity to being infected in the future. They’re not 100 percent sure on that but I think that’s the general consensus on that,” he said. “So I think having wide antibody testing will be something that’s very, very important in Florida and we’re working as hard as we can to roll that out.”
Gov. DeSantis said the state is also working to expand regular testing capabilities and, in turn, expand criteria for people who can get tested at sites throughout the state.
“When we started it, the federal contracts limited the amount of samples that could be taken daily to 250,” he said. “So now that the state is taking over the testing, we are going to open it up – we want to do more than 250 a day if the demand is there.”
Because of the original limit, DeSantis said they focused on people who were 65 and older with symptoms in addition to first responders and health care workers.
“Obviously, that’s the tip of the spear. The people that are out there protecting us and those folks who are 65 and plus – they obviously are most at risk so it made sense to do that,” he said. “But I think we really want to expand that beyond, I think we have the capacity to do it.”
Anybody with coronavirus symptoms – regardless of their age – will be able to get tested at sites in Jacksonville, Orange County and Miami-Dade starting Monday, the governor said. He did not mention testing sites in the Tampa Bay area.
Anyone who has had close sustained contact with a coronavirus patient will also be able to get tested at those sites, even if they haven’t developed symptoms.
“I think what we’re trying to do is get a sense of people who are asymptomatic who may be carrying the virus and may be spreading the virus,” DeSantis said.
Florida has tested and received results for about 163,000 people so far, the governor said. He added that the state is working to secure more rapid coronavirus tests as well.
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