BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — COVID-19 testing centers throughout Florida — which have been dealing with crushing demand over the last few weeks — may have just caught a big break.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday announced that up to 1 million coronavirus rapid test kits which had expired in December can actually be used.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration extended the expiration date for three months on a warehouse full of between 800,000 and 1 million Abbott Laboratories BinaxNOW COVID-19 test kits, pushing their shelf life to March.
The tests, which had expired between Dec. 26 and 30, will now be sent to emergency management offices, county health departments, public safety agencies, hospitals, and long-term care facilities.
"Those are gonna be sourced just like they would've been had they been authorized," DeSantis said Wednesday during a news conference in Bonita Springs. "Different testing centers, different county health."
DeSantis added the rapid COVID-19 test kits are not at-home tests and cannot be sent to Floridians directly. Only trained medical professionals can administer them at testing sites.
The governor said the tests expired in December due to a lack of demand in late 2021. At that time, the highly contagious omicron variant had not yet surfaced in Florida, according to health officials.
"Those three months were almost zero demand in Florida for testing because we had such low COVID prevalence," DeSantis said. "I think the [Division of Emergency Management] basically was correct to not send if they may not have been accurate. So they needed the FDA to be able to say that."
Florida gets the green light to extend the shelf-life of about 1 million unused COVID test kits the state had stockpiled. pic.twitter.com/DDgHBZgH7E— Forrest Saunders (@FBSaunders) January 11, 2022
The FDA said it extended the expiration date after "ongoing stability studies" proved the test kits were still accurate and usable.
For weeks, testing centers throughout Florida have faced hours-long wait times and COVID-19 test kits are nearly impossible to find at local pharmacies.
To combat the shortage, DeSantis said the state has acquired 1 million at-home tests which are being sent to nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and senior communities.