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DeSantis demonstrates rapid Covid test at Morton Plant

Margie Manning

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A BayCare nurse administers a rapid Covid test to an unidentified staffer.

By the end of 2020, the state of Florida will get 6.4 million tests to quickly detect Covid-19 antigens.

The Abbott BinaxNOW tests can provide results in 15 minutes. The first 420,000 tests are expected to arrive in the state this week, Gov. Ron DeSantis said.

The state will prioritize their use at senior facilities and at schools, DeSantis said during a news conference at BayCare Health System’s Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater.

No lab is required. The test is supposed to be administered by a nurse, but DeSantis said the state would ask for a waiver allowing others to administer the test.

During the new conference, an unidentified DeSantis staff member was tested by a BayCare nurse. The nurse took a nasal swab from the staffer and the swab was inserted into a test card with an extraction reagent. After about 10 minutes, DeSantis turned to the nurse and asked, “Do we have results yet?”

“It’s negative,” she said.

“Negative. Yeah! He wouldn’t have been able to get on the plane going back if he was positive, so it’s good to see that,” DeSantis said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the Abbott test on Aug. 26. The federal government purchased 150 million tests the next day. On Monday night, the Trump administration detailed a national distribution plan.

Senior citizens who contract Covid-19 are more likely to die than younger people, DeSantis said, so the tests will be distributed to nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other senior communities.

Gov. Ron DeSantis at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater

“Obviously you use it to try to identify infections, particularly in congregant living environments, where it will be very important. but I think you can also use it so that folks who may be more vulnerable are able to enjoy life to the fullest. For example, if a senior would like to have family members come, this will be available. So it really lets people do more and be part of life,” DeSantis said.

The tests also will be made available at schools, where some students have been quarantined after they came in contact with someone who was displaying symptoms of Covid-19. If the person displaying symptoms tested negative, the quarantine was unnecessary, DeSantis said. The new test will prevent that from occurring, he said.

“If you have a student who starts developing symptoms they can be given this test and we’ll know within 15 minutes if it is Covid. If it’s not Covid, then you should not isolate healthy students,” DeSantis said.

The state will work over the weekend to get the first shipment of 420,000 rapid tests deployed as fast as possible, said Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

As more tests become available, the state will look at supplanting the PCR tests that have been in use at sites around Florida with the rapid tests, Moskowitz said.

“I have a feeling the general public is not going to want to wait several days. They are going to want results as fast as possible,” he said.

The new tests also will lower the state’s cost by as much as 75 percent, because they don’t require instrumentation or laboratories, Moskowitz said.

During the news conference, DeSantis also defended the decision he announced last week in St. Petersburg, to move the state into Phase Three of his reopening plan and permit restaurants to operate at full capacity.

He was asked how the state would respond if there is a resurgence in Covid-19 cases.

Cases are not the best metric to use, DeSantis said. The state instead looks at emergency room for Covid-like illness and hospitalizations.

“We’ll be looking at that and continuing to monitor it, but there’s not going to be any type of closure of Florida,” he said.

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