Florida Can Still Use Those 1 Million Expired COVID-19 Tests, After All

TALLAHASSEE – On Tuesday at the Florida Capitol, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie met with Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. He had news for her.

The federal government has agreed to grant Florida a further three-month extension to use the nearly one million COVID-19 rapid test kits that expired in a state warehouse in late December, Guthrie said.

Fried, the only Florida-state elected Democrat and gubernatorial candidate, had sharply criticized the DeSantis administration for letting the kits expire as the wave of the omicron coronavirus left thousands of Floridians rushing for a test . In a statement released last week, she called the governor’s actions “shame” and accused her team of “lying and covering up the massive failure of a million unused tests.”

In response to initial criticism, Department of Health spokesperson Jeremy Redfern tweeted, “Nikki Fried needs to turn on that turn signal and get back in her lane.”

Tuesday’s brief conversation with Guthrie seemed more cordial.

“Emergency management is part of public safety. There is no left side of the aisle, nor a right side of the aisle, ”Guthrie said afterwards. “I have a very good working relationship on both sides of the aisle, including a professional working relationship with Commissioner Fried.”

In an emailed statement, Fried said she never had a problem with Guthrie.

“Floridians waited hours in lines to receive potentially life-saving information as the state sat on expiring tests,” she wrote. “Now that we know their use is going to be expanded, my question for the Governor is: what is the plan to make them immediately available to the public? “

The test kits, which were not intended for individual use, had already expired once before, in September. But the federal government has granted the state an extension until the end of December to use the kits, Guthrie said at a press conference last week.

The United States Food and Drug Administration was able to extend the expiration date of test kits by updating the emergency use authorization for the product. Abbott Diagnostics, the maker of the kits, has proven to the federal government that the test kits will remain stable for at least 15 months if stored at room temperature, according to a Jan. 7 letter from the FDA obtained by the Time / Herald. This schedule would cover testing over the next three months.

Until omicron hit Florida in December, there was relatively little demand for the kits by local governments, so they were not used, Guthrie said.

The state was unwilling to donate the test kits past the end-December deadline because officials didn’t want Floridians to use flawed tests, a DeSantis spokesperson wrote in an email last week. last.

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Related: No need to test for COVID-19 if asymptomatic, says Florida Department of Health

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