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Florida prepares for COVID-19 testing surge, orders enough kits to diagnose more than 500,000 people

DeSantis activating portion of National Guard
Posted at 12:27 AM, Mar 14, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’ll be activating parts of the National Guard in the next 24 hours to help medical staff deal with the coronavirus.

It comes as Gov. DeSantis also prepares for more cases of the virus, ordering 2,500 COVID-19 test kits. State officials say that’s enough to test 625,000 people.


“We want to be able to identify as many cases as you can in the state,” DeSantis said. “If you’re somebody experiencing symptoms of COVID-19… and you speak to a physician and they think you should get tested for it, we have opportunities to do that.”

The test kits will head to 50 labs and hospitals across the state, each able to process 100 patients a day. Florida’s current daily testing capacity is 300.

DeSantis said the state was already in possession of 1,000 of the kits, which were being handed out as soon as possible.

“The tests will be distributed with priority to hospitals and counties with the highest need,” said the governor. “Starting with Broward County, based on their increased number of cases.”

Meanwhile, at the capitol, lawmakers were working on their COVID-19 preparations. In final budget talks, legislators plan to set aside an extra $25 million for Florida’s health department. Another $300 million is expected for state reserves, a cushion if the economy sours.

“We trust our leadership and absolutely the governor,” said a member of the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Jacksonville Beach. “They will do absolutely everything to ensure Florida is prepared.”

Some Democrats are not feeling the same.

Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Hollywood, says response thus far was “not up to snuff.”

He was frustrated the GOP majority hadn’t been able to finish its budget on time and worried when lawmakers return next week for a final budget vote, the virus would come with them.

“They’re in charge of both chambers and the governor’s mansion and they still can’t get it done,” Jenne said. “This time, it’s going to be much more costly than it ever has.”