Unused COVID tests are being distributed at last as FDA extends expiration date

By: - January 12, 2022 2:29 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis distributed an infrastructure resilience grant to Bonita Springs on Jan. 12, 2022. Source: DeSantis Facebook page

State officials will distribute nearly 1 million COVID tests that ostensibly expired late last month now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded they will remain effective for another three months.

Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried on Dec. 30 sharply criticized the Republican DeSantis administration for failure to distribute the stockpile. The administration was slow to respond to her complaint, but last week acknowledged the tests were still on hand.

Now the FDA has concluded that the tests will remain accurate through late March if stored at room temperature. Fried posted a copy of a letter to that effect from Uwe Scherf, director of the Division of Microbiology Devices at the FDA, to manufacturer Abbott Diagnostics, on her Twitter feed.

It was the second extension from the agency. The tests hit their original expiration date in late summer.

During a news conference Wednesday in Bonita Springs, DeSantis cited low demand for testing to explain why the state hadn’t already distributed the tests. Now that omicron has hit, the demand for tests has increased.

“The Division of Emergency Management had been asking about the extension for a long time; got no answer. Finally, got some answer for it. And so, now, those are available,” the governor said.

“Those are not at-home tests,” DeSantis stressed.

“It’s literally a box with, like, 40 tests in it and just one little tube of the solution that you have to put in there. And so, they really need to be done by, you know, a test center or they need to be done at a county health department or something like that,” he said.

DeSantis Communications Director Christine Pushaw didn’t think the extension of the expiration date would discourage public acceptance of the tests.

“Since that news broke in the last 2 days, we have not heard concerns from the public regarding those tests,” she wrote via email.

The state is also distributing close to 1 million at-home tests, DeSantis said, targeting senior citizens.

The governor was in Bonita Springs to announce a nearly $17 million Florida Mitigation General Infrastructure Program grant to improve storm water infrastructure and a hiking and biking pathway. The area suffered destructive flooding when Hurricane Irma hit in 2017.

The DeSantis administration has advised that testing is best directed toward people suffering symptoms or at high risk for serious complications from COVID, including the elderly. The sort of widespread testing that the Biden administration is attempting to require as an alternative to its vaccine mandates is “not sustainable,” DeSantis said.

The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule whether mandates for large employers and health-care workers are constitutional.

“You’ll have places, you know, where people are flooding [hospital emergency departments] that have very minor symptoms and are very low risk trying to get COVID tests across the country, and that’s not, I think, the proper thing that we want to be advocating for,” DeSantis said.

It would be better if the feds did more to promote treatments including monoclonal antibody therapy, he said, notwithstanding evidence they’re less efficacious against omicron as opposed to earlier variants.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.