TAMPA (WFLA) – Gov. Ron DeSantis provided an update Wednesday on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, speaking on testing discrepancies and students returning to school next month.
The press conference came as Florida has surpassed 300,000 cases along with the highest daily increase of coronavirus-related hospitalizations on Wednesday.
Governor DeSantis addressed the need to get testing results back in a timely fashion. State testing sites have set up relationships with commercial labs, though some of those relationships may not continue if test results continue to be delayed.
“When we went into the expansion of testing at the beginning of May, our request was a 48 hour turnaround from the time the swab was received until the test was run and then reported back to the person whether they were positive or negative,” he said.
“We’ve had some labs that have done well, but many have not. So the Department of Emergency Management is going to shift business away from labs who have failed to produce results in a timely fashion.”
DeSantis said those labs that can produce will get more of the business and he believes that is the best way to go about it.
He addressed smaller labs that have failed to provide the state negative coronavirus test results in addition to the positive result reports required.
The governor required in a previous executive order that all negative results should be reported to the state as well.
“That’s how we look to see percent positive and try and evaluate. And there were a number of labs, who were just simply doing kind of what the default is, which is sending the positives only without sending the negatives,” Gov. DeSantis said.
“I don’t think they were trying to be underhanded, those labs, I think that’s kind of what they were doing before this started. And so that was identified and I know they’re going to start doing the negatives as well.
The governor also fielded questions from reporters about students returning to school in the fall, whether that be in the classroom or by virtual learning.
He said he believes each school district is working with its county health department on protocols on matters such as if a child tests positive, who exactly should be isolated in regards to that case.
The governor said he isn’t sure that only testing students and staff on the first day of school is the answer.
“It’s not like it’s an antibody test. This is a snapshot in time. And even though I believe the younger kids in particular seem to be more resistant to this, the fact is, you’re probably going to see different transmission as this stuff goes,” DeSantis said.
At the end of the day, the governor said he believes school superintendents have unique constituencies, and reopening schools will be a collaborative effort within the county.
He said reopening and protocols should not be dictated by the Department of Education, though the department can make recommendations.
“But ultimately, we want every school district to do what’s best for the kids, for their education, to make sure they have opportunities to do well, and also making sure parents have the agency,” the governor said.
“So if you have a school district that’s offering the in-person instruction which many parents think is very important. If you have parents that aren’t comfortable with that, that they have the ability yo offer distance learning. So that is what it’s gotta be.”