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Gov. DeSantis: Florida to cut ties with testing labs providing delayed COVID-19 results

The state crossed 300,000 COVID-19 cases in its latest report Wednesday as the two-week moving average of deaths ticked upward.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — As more people nationwide are tested for COVID-19, the typical turnaround time from the first swab to the final result has ballooned from a day or two to at least a week.

That is happening in Florida as well, and Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the state will "shift business away" from testing labs that aren't able to stick close to what the state wanted from the onset of the pandemic: roughly a 48-hour turnaround time.

"Those who can produce are going to get more of the business, and I think that's the best way to go about it," said DeSantis during his Wednesday briefing.

A 10-day turnaround time, the governor said, "is not going to be very helpful" when community spread of COVID-19 is happening right now and quick results are vital to limiting it.

The governor did not specify which labs could be affected and what impact, if any, fewer testing labs would have on COVID-19 testing overall.

DeSantis' news briefing is the latest in a series this week as the number of new COVID-19 cases in Florida continues to cause the 14-day moving average to tick higher. On Wednesday, the Florida Department of Health reported a total of 301,810 positive cases of the virus among residents and non-residents, with 4,626 deaths.

DeSantis reiterated 1,000 medical personnel will be dispatched to hospitals across the state to care for COVID-19 patients, and state officials are working with the federal government to increase that number to nearly 3,000 people if necessary.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives COVID-19 update

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives COVID-19 update Gov. DeSantis is expected to provide an update on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Florida crossed 300,000 COVID-19 cases in its latest report Wednesday as the two-week moving average of deaths ticked upward. https://bit.ly/3j4jZeB

Posted by 10 Tampa Bay on Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The governor in recent weeks attributed the increase in cases to additional, widespread testing and did so again Wednesday -- and that is true, with the state performing an average of more tests now than it had during the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, per data collected by The COVID Tracking Project.

Florida, however, has a high percent positivity of new COVID-19 cases -- 13.59 percent as of the Wednesday report. The World Health Organization recommends a value of 5 percent or lower for reopening, and the state has not sustained those levels since early June.

DeSantis ordered the suspension of alcohol consumption at bars and made the earlier announcement of 1,000 medical personnel working across the state to assist hospitals. DeSantis largely laid the blame for the rising number of cases on the state's younger population as the state has seen the median age of cases fall into the mid-30s to low-40s. 

He warned that younger people need to be more responsible as some have gone out into the community and brought the virus home to other, possibly more susceptible, family members.

The governor, too, has resisted calls for a statewide mask mandate while facial coverings and social distancing continue to be recommended as ways to limit the virus' spread. Instead, the governor stressed people listen to their local and county governments for direction.

Many across the Tampa Bay area have made it a requirement to wear a mask, mostly in indoor settings.

Alabama's Republican governor, meanwhile, made masks mandatory in a statewide order that goes into effect Thursday.

RELATED: Tampa Bay mask mandates: Who has them, what they mean

Health experts also have been monitoring the state's hospitalizations and deaths, with both trending higher and appearing to follow a disturbing pattern: More cases lead to additional hospitalizations, which can lead to a greater number of deaths.

RELATED: Florida sees uptick in deaths following spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations

DeSantis was shouted down Monday toward the start of his briefing at a Miami hospital by an activist, later identified as Thomas Kennedy, who called upon him to resign.

"You are doing nothing. You are falsifying information and you are misleading the public. Over 4,000 people have died, and you (pointing to Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez) are blaming the protestors," Kennedy yelled. "You guys have no plans, and you're doing nothing.

"Shame on you!"

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