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DeSantis clarifies that there will be no restrictions on COVID tests in updated guidance

 Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in Kissimmee on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022.
Danielle Prieur
/
WMFE
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in Kissimmee on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022.

The governor claims a lot of people - many healthy, low-risk and asymtomatic - are getting tested over and over out of fear rather than need, but they are free to do so.

COVID-19 tests will continue to be available to all Floridians that need one, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday, clarifying earlier statements about recommendations the state is developing.

DeSantis said the state would simply be putting out updated guidelines that would point out what is “high-value testing” versus “low-value testing” based on risk for COVID-19.

He claims that a lot of people are getting tested out of fear rather than need.

“If you’re somebody who is very low risk, no health problems, no symptoms, just testing over and over again is not really clinically proven to be very much of a value,” DeSantis said. “Again, you’re free to do it. But we’re putting that out there so that people understand.”

DeSantis, speaking Kissimmee, said there won’t be any restrictions when it comes to the number of tests a person can get over the counter or at a testing facility.

“If you want to go into the drug store and buy 15 tests for yourself to have, you’re free to do that,” he said.

On Monday, state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo announced the Florida Department of Health intends to publish the new testing guidelines that would target seniors and medically vulnerable individuals. Ladapo also said the guidance would seek to “unwind the testing psychology” of the federal government.

The governor said the state has yet to receive any at-home test kits from the Biden administration. The White House has promised more than 500 million of these kits to Americans. DeSantis has said the state didn't want to wait on the federal distribution so it is planning to send its own tests to vulnerable Floridians.

In another appearance Wednesday in Naples, DeSantis continued his critcism of the Biden administration over the unavailability of monoclonal antibody treatments in Florida.

DeSantis said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has provided only 12,000 doses to Florida, when the state had requested 40,000 last week.

“Not only do we have 22 million people who are residents, but at this time of year, we probably have 25 million people in the state of Florida when you count snowbirds, when you count tourists,” DeSantis said. “And so, that is woefully inadequate to be able to meet the demand.”

DeSantis said if more doses become available, the state could have a monoclonal antibody treatment clinic running in Collier County in 24 hours. He previously announced plans for such clinics in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties and in the Orlando region.

DeSantis also said he’s also looking to add clarity to data on COVID hospitalizations by requesting that hospitals distinguish between patients being treated for a coronavirus and patients in the hospital for another reason but test positive.

“We’ve between 5,000 and 6,000 COVID-positive individuals in Florida hospitals over the last four to five days, but I think you’d probably have to say 40 percent? Between 40 and 50 percent of that are not being treated for COVID and that’s a much higher percentage than we’ve seen in previous waves, but I think it’s a function of omicron and how it acts,” said DeSantis, noting that the variant is highly transmissible but less virulent than the delta variant.

Health and Human Services released data Wednesday that showed 7,647 Florida inpatients had COVID, up from 6,914 on Tuesday. Wednesday’s total also was nearly double the 3,836 inpatients from a week earlier. There 843 in intensive care, up from 443 a week earlier.

Hospitalizations related to COVID remain below that of the summer delta surge.

Information from WGCU's John Davis and News Service of Florida was used in this report.