FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — During his first news conference of 2022, Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledged there is a shortage of COVID-19 tests in Florida as the state sees record highs of daily cases driven by the omicron variant.
The state is working to spread them around where needed as Florida awaits more from the federal government, he said.
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo joined DeSantis during the briefing Monday to speak on a new testing philosophy the state will begin implementing during a time when people have been flooding testing sites, leading to long lines.
Ladapo said this wouldn't be a restriction on testing but rather a new emphasis on "high-value" testing versus "low-value" testing. Ladapo explained this would give priority to tests that would "likely change outcomes" based on a positive or negative result.
Ladapo used the example of an elderly grandmother given more testing consideration over an 8-year-old 3rd grader. Ladapo said more detailed guidance would be coming soon.
"We need to unwind this sort of planning and living one's life around testing. Without it, we're going to be stuck in the same cycle," Ladapo said. "So it's really time for people to be living, to make the decisions they want regarding vaccination, to enjoy the fact that many people have natural immunity. And to unwind this preoccupation with only COVID as determining the boundaries and constraints and possibilities of life. And we're going to start that in Florida."
The Florida Department of Health reports 62,504 people have died from COVID-related reasons since the pandemic began.
DeSantis and Ladapo did not encourage those who are unvaccinated, which Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows are most at risk of COVID-related hospitalizations and death, to seek the shot and left it as a personal decision. Last fall, the governor signed a bill making it illegal for private employers to mandate vaccines.
Despite reported breakthrough infectious of COVID-19 among people who are vaccinated, the CDC and other health officials implore people to get vaccinated and boosted given the effectiveness against the virus.
DeSantis, who has been a champion of monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19, says the U.S. Health and Human Services has "reversed course" on withholding the treatments from states.
Additional monoclonal antibody treatment sites will be coming to Florida as soon as the federal government sends the doses, DeSantis said. One new site specifically will be opened in Broward County.
The governor said about 30,000 to 40,000 doses of the treatment will be coming to the state soon.
DeSantis was also joined by Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie and Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Simone Marstiller.
Just as 2021 came to an end, Florida broke another all-time-high single-day record for COVID-19 cases. On Dec. 30, the state saw 75,962 new cases reported.
Across the country, the highly-contagious omicron variant is fueling this latest spike in coronavirus cases also seen here in the Sunshine State.