TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida has received its first shipment of 400,000 rapid “antigen” test kits from the federal government, and Gov. Ron DeSantis announced at a news conference Tuesday that 100,000 will be sent to assisted living facilities to test staff members and visitors for the novel coronavirus.
DeSantis has directed that another 180,000 of the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card test kits go to senior and retirement communities, including The Villages, Sun City Center in Tampa, the four Center Village communities in South Florida and On Top of the World Communities in Ocala.
DeSantis will divide the remaining 120,000 between public schools and state-supported testing sites.
None of the test kits will go to nursing homes because they are already receiving kits from the federal government.
Two types of diagnostic tests are used to detect the virus -- molecular tests, such as RT-PCR tests, that detect the virus’s genetic material, and antigen tests that detect specific proteins on the surface of the virus. Produced by Abbott, the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card delivers test results in 15 minutes. But the rapid antigen tests are only recommended for use on symptomatic people and aren’t as reliable as the PCR tests. Because of those limitations, Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, opposed efforts to require people to take tests prior to visiting residents at long-term care facilities.
While he acknowledged that the rapid antigen tests are a"little less sensitive," DeSantis said he thought the PCR tests were too sensitive and returned positive results in people who aren’t contagious.
“I guarantee you that the PCR results we are getting now, I guarantee you probably 10 to 15 percent are dead viruses that people are picking up,” DeSantis said.