JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — With COVID-19 cases up statewide and the highly-transmissible Omicron variant playing a role, health experts have been urging people to get tested as a way to help control the spread of the virus.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis visited Jacksonville today to talk about testing and treatment for COVID-19.
During his press conference— Governor DeSantis put the responsibility of getting more testing resources, back on the federal government.
In remarks, made today by President Biden before a meeting on COVID-19, he said, “Next week, our requirement that your insurance company reimburse you for at-home tests takes effect.”
DeSantis did not mention any plans to provide more money for COVID-19 testing sites. Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Florida’s Surgeon General has a different idea about how COVID-19 testing should be handled.
“We’re going to be working to unwind the sort of testing psychology that our federal leadership has managed to, unfortunately, get most of the country, over the last two years,” said Dr. Ladapo during a press conference on Monday in Broward County.
He believes it’s time to re-think how we are doing testing.
“It’s really time for people to be living, to make the decisions they want regarding vaccinations, to enjoy the fact that many people have natural immunity,” Dr. Ladapo sid.
Over the last two years of the pandemic, science has shown us asymptomatic people can still transmit the virus.
At the time of this story, about 1/4 of COVID-19 tests in Florida, are coming back positive, according to the latest data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So, Action News Jax Cole took the opportunity to follow up on his question, during his visit in Jacksonville today.
Courtney Cole: “How can we justify having us test less?
Dr. Ladapo:” We’re not telling people that you can’t get tested, we’re not restricting access. But we are saying that we don’t think it’s sensible that people who are unlikely to benefit, unlikely to have any change in their clinical outcome, to sort of be in line waiting to get tested. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
But investing in more testing makes a lot of sense to Dr. Jennifer Cowart, a doctor who has been treating patients during the pandemic.
She came down to the press conference hoping her concerns would be heard by the governor.
“We need those tests. If the Neptune Beach site and other sites are overwhelmed, and the city health department, county health department—the lines are around the building and the home tests are flying off the shelves—you can’t find them at the grocery store or the pharmacy, or online on Amazon or Walmart— that’s a sign that we need government intervention,” Dr. Cowart told Action News Jax.
Although she did not give the name of the hospital where she works, she is a part of a group called Doctors Fighting COVID.
“Doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals in our community are begging for help! We need more testing, we need staffing help, we need to be able to get our community members to wear their masks and stop spreading COVID in our communities,” Dr. Cowart said passionately.
Cole also asked our Action News Jax Medical Expert, Dr. Michelle Aquino, about the Surgeon General’s comments.
Dr. Aquino has years of experience in osteopathic and internal medicine, as well as treating COVID-19 patients during the pandemic.
“This virus—it doesn’t matter if it’s an older person, a younger person, someone that has no risk factors, someone that has many risk factors, the bottom line is –we want to prevent from this virus getting to another person, because the more we have transmission, the increased likelihood of having more sick people and the increased likelihood of this virus living longer, and mutating and coming back even stronger,” said Dr. Aquino.
The high demand for access to more COVID-19 testing continues as more people are trying to maintain normalcy—while still preventing the spread of the virus.
Americans are still waiting for President Biden to announce the availability of the 500-million at-home tests that have been promised.
During a press briefing today, Press Secretary Jen Psaki, gave an update on the test kits, saying in part:
“The Department of Defense and HHS are already executing on an accelerating — accelerated contracting timeline.  This is the largest, of course, over-the-counter purchase of tests to date.  And the RFP — the Request for Proposal — that has been sent out to the industry allows us to best understand logistics, timing, and manufacturing considerations. So, where we are now is that the RFP has been closed as of today and we are currently evaluating the responses to it, which means we are finalizing the contracts. While I expect we can share additional details with all of you soon — and, certainly, we hope to do that — we’re on track to start seeing movement on some of the awards through the RFP this week.  So, the first deliver- — delivery for manufacturers will start later this month.  That’s our expectation. When we have those deliveries in hand, we will put the website up, make it available so that people can order tests at that point in time.”
A spokesperson for the City of Jacksonville told Cole next Tuesday, emergency funding is set to be proposed to increase the number of tests here at the Neptune Beach testing site and to keep it operational. This comes following days of long lines of people waiting at that testing location, to get tested for the virus.
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