What’s being done with the nearly 1 million COVID-19 tests that expired in a Florida warehouse?

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — The stockpile of nearly one million COVID-19 rapid test kits that ultimately expired in a Florida warehouse have been given the green light by officials to be used.

During a news conference in Bonita Springs on Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked what will be done with the tests following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent extension of the shelf life of the tests.

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Action News Jax reported last week when Florida Division of Emergency (FDEM) Management Director Kevin Guthrie said the test kits expired between Dec. 26 and Dec. 30, after the state received a three-month extension on their use in September.

“We had between 800,000 and a million test kits, Abbott (Laboratories) rapid test kits, in our warehouse that did expire. We tried to get them out prior to that, but there was not a demand for it,” Guthrie said last week.

Last week, DeSantis stated that the state had not received an answer from the federal government on whether the kits are still approved for use.

The Florida governor said that the FDEM had asked for an extension for a long time and got no answer, until recently.

“Finally we got some answer for it and so now those are available. So, those are going to be sourced just like they would have been, had they been authorized,” DeSantis said Wednesday.

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DeSantis repeatedly said that the stockpiled tests are not at-home tests. Instead, they are tests that would need to be performed by testing centers or county health departments.

The at-home tests that the state was able to get a hold of are new, according to DeSantis.

The governor previously said the state was waiting on at-home tests that the federal government promised, but had not received them yet. He said the state acquired 1 million at-home tests and those would be first sent to nursing homes.

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“I think there’s questions about how accurate some of these instant tests are with omicron. I don’t know definitively. I can’t tell ya,” he said. “Nevertheless, those are out to those high risk areas, and then the older one, which are not at-home tests, will be sourced,” DeSantis added.

When asked if he could guarantee that the stockpiled Abbott tests would be used by their new expiration date in March, DeSantis said that’s contingent on demand.

“There wasn’t a lot of them being gone out because people weren’t asking for them before. I can’t say there is a guarantee, but I think that you have a lot higher demand for testing right now, and so my sense is that there’s going to be enough requests to at least get a lot of those out the door very, very quickly,” he said.

He added that testing should focus on symptoms and focus on people who are high risk, versus for testing to get on a plane, he used as an example.

“I think if you do that, you’re going to then be able to have very easy access,” he said.