JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health on Thursday issued updated COVID-19 testing guidance.
The health department’s guidance emphasizes testing for those at increase risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Groups at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include:
- Older adults, especially those age 65 and older
- Individuals with certain medical conditions, including cancer, diabetes, chronic lung diseases, heart conditions and a weakened immune system.
According to the health department, individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 who are at an increased risk for severe illness from the disease:
- Should get tested for COVID-19 soon after symptom onset.
- Should seek early monoclonal antibody or antiviral drug treatment and seek other medical treatment as necessary.
As for individuals with symptoms and who are not at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, the health department says they should:
- Consider getting tested for COVID-19 soon after symptom onset.
- Seek medical treatment only as necessary.
And the health department says “COVID-19 testing is unlikely to have any clinical benefits for individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 but have no symptoms.”
“Many individuals with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or a mild illness,” the health department said in a news release Wednesday announcing the testing guidelines. “If you get symptoms, you should avoid contact with others. A positive COVID-19 test result will not change this recommendation.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said earlier in the week that the state would be releasing updated testing guidelines, and state Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo had said the health department will recommend people forgo testing unless it’s what he considers “high-value” COVID-19 testing — testing that’s likely able to change the outcomes of the diagnosis. For instance, frequent testing of the elderly is what he considers high-value testing, but mandatory testing for schools or businesses for people without symptoms is not.
“The clinical benefit of that for somebody who’s healthy and going to get tested to figure out whether they’re sick or not, that’s very low-value testing,” DeSantis said at a news conference Thursday.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Mohammed Reza says testing is vital to getting a handle on the pandemic and he believes telling people not to get tested when they’ve been exposed is a mistake.
“It’s like trying to fly without a radar. It’s like trying to get through the dark without a flashlight. Testing provides us that guidance,” Reza said.
Reza told News4JAX that he was surprised by the state health department’s new guidance.
“I understand where they are coming from, but at the same time, with COVID, you could have no symptoms prior to becoming symptomatic with COVID up to two days, and with the flu, one day before, so you’d be spreading that virus to everyone around you unknowingly and feeling just fine, Reza said.
The Duval County health department did not have a comment Thursday on the guidance.
Right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says reasons for testing include if you have symptoms, had exposure to COVID-19, for screening for work or school, or before travel.
DeSantis did say there is no rule saying people can’t get tested, but he says these guidelines would help with the long lines for those who really need to find out if they are sick with COVID-19.