KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday morning the state will soon start sending at-home rapid coronavirus tests to Florida’s seniors and those who are high-risk.
DeSantis said the state has already acquired some tests and plans to get more and start sending them first to long-term care facilities.
He also criticized the federal government for not yet making free at-home tests widely available as the omicron variant spreads to millions across the country.
“We’re going to start with our long term care facilities for our elderly, and then we’re going to try to focus it on the senior population, because, you know, I don’t want somebody that’s 75 to have to wait in line for an hour, especially when a lot of the people that are testing are more low-risk people. So we are going to do that because the federal government hasn’t come through with that,” DeSantis said.
President Joe Biden announced last month that the federal government is buying half a billion COVID-19 rapid test kits and distributing them free of charge to people to use at home. The first delivery is expected in early January, but all 500 million kits will not arrive at the same time and instead will be delivered in batches.
DeSantis said the state will release more information about its free at-home tests later this week.
It comes as Walmart and Kroger reportedly raised the price of Abbott’s at-home COVID-19 test kit after an agreement with the White House to sell the tests at a reduced price expired. The BinaxNOW kit was listed on Walmart’s website Tuesday for $19.88, up from $14 last month, though many of the stores in the Jacksonville area were sold out on Wednesday as demand has skyrocketed.
DeSantis also said the state will release updated testing guidelines that suggest testing fewer people at state sites and focusing on adults and those who have symptoms.
The proposed guidelines from Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo were criticized by public health officials who recommend anyone with close contact with a case and those who aren’t fully vaccinated get tested.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running against DeSantis for governor, criticized the proposed scaling back of testing Wednesday and again accused the Florida health department of stockpiling COVID-19 tests, a claim DeSantis has refuted.