Florida seeks new ways to expand coronavirus testing

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida will look to new ways to expand coronavirus testing, including allowing tests at pharmacies and randomly checking blood donations for antibodies that indicate whether people have recovered from the disease, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday.

DeSantis held a news conference in Miami to show the state’s new mobile testing lab, which will travel to nursing homes and assisted living facilities to conduct rapid testing. It will conduct up to 500 tests a day.

He also said the state is giving approval for CVS, Walgreens and Walmart to conduct tests and that he’s looking into the possibility of home testing. Testing at those businesses will start with a handful of locations and then expand,

“I relaxed the restrictions on licensed pharmacists. They are now allowed to administer COVID-19 tests,” DeSantis said. “This just makes it easier for people because these are things that may be in the neighborhood.”

The mobile testing unit will be staffed by 10 members of the National Guard and 10 nurses, DeSantis said. Test results will be available within 45 minutes. While the National Guard has already been testing in nursing homes, DeSantis said that the swabs are taken to private labs and results can take up to two days,

“With this, you’re going to be able to go to long-term care facilities, get results back almost immediately and then be able to, if there is a case, isolate the worker, isolate the resident appropriately,” DeSantis said.

Florida has more than 38,000 confirmed coronavirus cases resulting in more than 1,500 deaths, according to statistics provided by the state. Of the fatalities, at least 577 have been long-term care residents or employees.

The state also began antibody testing at drive-up sites, placing a priority on health care workers.

DeSantis said the state is also looking to start testing blood donations for the coronavirus antibodies.

“That’s a way to get a pretty powerful snapshot of data about how widespread antibodies are throughout the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.