3 Florida health department labs now testing for new virus

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Three Florida Department of Health labs are now able to test for the new coronavirus, cutting wait times significantly for results, state officials said Saturday.

State health officials said in an email that labs in Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami can conduct the tests, which previously had to be sent to federal labs. The upshot is the results should be available 24 to 48 hours instead of three to five days, officials said.

“The most important thing is it will bring down the average testing time,” said Deputy Health Secretary Shamarial Roberson in a telephone interview. “It helps address this in a more efficient time.”

Florida officials had been awaiting approval for one component of the test from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Roberson said. That approval came Friday.

The announcement comes a day after health officials and Gov. Ron DeSantis said no cases of the virus, also known as covid-19, have been reported in Florida, but four people who may have been exposed in China and have exhibited possible symptoms are awaiting test results. Another 15 similar people tested negative.