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Florida Gets 200K Coronavirus Antibody Tests

A Phlebotomist draws blood from a patient for COVID-19 antibody testing.
A Phlebotomist draws blood from a patient for COVID-19 antibody testing.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Sunday said the state has received 200,000 coronavirus antibody tests that will be deployed in the coming days.

Speaking at Halifax Health in Daytona Beach, the governor also talked about how hospitals will be resuming elective medical procedures on Monday, May 4, under his Phase 1 reopening plan. 

The procedures were initially put on hold to make sure that hospitals didn’t run out of space as the highly contagious coronavirus continued to spread.

“As we’ve gone through this, as hospitals have had more than enough capacity, there’s obviously a need to bring that online, so that’s going to start tomorrow,” DeSantis said. “These are really important things for people's health and we want to make sure that people understand that this is something that they're going to be able to schedule, going forward.”

If residents of nursing homes go to a hospital, DeSantis said they will need to take two tests confirming that they don’t have COVID-19 before they’re allowed to return to their nursing home.

"If these things are left to spread unabated in a nursing home, this thing can really spread like wildfire," he said.

The governor said the state received its first 200,000 coronavirus antibody tests early that morning. Antibody tests are used to identify people who were previously infected with the coronavirus — they don’t show if a person is currently infected.

"A lot of people have had this [coronavirus] and don't even know they've had it because they just either never developed symptoms at all, or the symptoms were so mild it was not anything you would even think of,” DeSantis said.

The governor said the antibody tests in the state’s possession have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), though he didn’t name the test or the company that produces it.  The FDA says it has issued a handful of emergency use authorizations for antibody tests.

However, the FDA doesn’t set standards for such tests, and those that meet the government’s informal standard  can produce false results. Also, even if someone does have antibodies to the coronavirus, it’s still not known if that offers any protection from getting sick again.

Related:  How Reliable Are COVID-19 Tests? Depends Which One You Mean

DeSantis wants to use the tests, perhaps in partnership with a university, to get a better sense of how much the coronavirus has spread through the state. 

“You go to different parts of the state, create a scientifically representative sample test for the antibodies, and then see how prevalent those are in various parts of the state,” he said.

He also plans to distribute some of the state’s newly acquired antibody tests to hospitals so that healthcare workers can get tested and to drive-through testing sites for residents who want one. 

DeSantis said he would be hosting another press conference on Monday to discuss the state’s unemployment system. On Friday,  he called for an investigation into the system, which was launched in 2013 with a $77 million price tag under then governor and now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

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