Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced approximately 800,000 to 1 million unadministered COVID tests stockpiled in a warehouse expired. The tests were produced by the manufacturer, Abbott, and were at-home test kits.
Democrats and progressives across Florida took unsubstantiated political shots across DeSantis’ bow.
“Given the Governor’s lack of transparency throughout this pandemic, there’s no known public information about these tests or how soon they expire,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D). “With omicron infections exploding throughout Florida, I beg of him to release these tests immediately to local counties and cities, and to stand up state-sponsored testing sites. To let these tests expire while Floridians anxiously wait for hours in testing lines is negligent at best, and heartless at worst.”
In separate comments, Fried said DeSantis now has to “beg” the federal government for an extension on the tests.
“Now the Governor has to beg President (Joe) Biden for another waiver to even use these expired tests — should they still be safe and effective,” Fried said. “The Governor’s executive failure during this pandemic continues to hurt Floridians. This is why I speak up.”
However, Florida Department of Health (FDOH) Press Secretary, Jeremy Redfern, said on Twitter the FDOH has already asked Abbott for an extension to use the COVID tests, and the company subsequently filed for an extension with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA has not yet provided comment to Abbott or the FDOH.
DeSantis also pushed back against the narrative that unfolded in the media.
“[Division of Emergency Management] has been asking about that for many, many weeks anticipating that,” DeSantis said Friday. “Basically, the way they [the federal government] do this is they always want to have enough tests if people need them, they send them down … the results of that is we had a stockpile, but no one really wanted them for many, many months.”
As the story developed, Fried frequently referred to DeSantis and his team as “liars” and then posted on Twitter that she engaged in talks with the President Joe Biden Administration despite the FDA not responding to Florida’s or Abbott’s request.
“I had a good call with the @WhiteHouse yesterday and hope these tests are salvageable now that everyone knows they actually exist,” Fried said.
I had a good call with the @WhiteHouse yesterday and hope these tests are salvageable now that everyone knows they actually exist.https://t.co/MzS0AFaakq
— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) January 8, 2022
Redfern responded by saying there might be “political influence” being pulled within the FDA to engage with a Democrat rather than the DeSantis administration.
“Nikki is preparing to pull the ‘I’m the reason these tests got an extension’ move, even though we’ve already asked Abbot for another extension, and they’ve already asked the FDA,” Redfern said. “Are you saying that there’s political influence at the FDA, Nikki?”
Nikki is preparing to pull the “I’m the reason these tests got an extension” move, even though we’ve already asked Abbot for another extension, and they’ve already asked the FDA.
Are you saying that there’s political influence at the FDA, Nikki? https://t.co/Ix0Qrl69pE
— Jeremy Redfern (@JeremyRedfernFL) January 8, 2022
FDOH Communications Director, Weesam Khoury, refuted Fried’s claim that the FDOH flippantly allowed the test to expire.
“To suggest that the Florida Department of Health waited around for these test kits to expire is simply false,” Khoury said. “The FDA granted the test manufacturer a 3-month extension in May of 2021. The original expiration of the test kits in question was September 2021. The manufacturer has also informed us that they have submitted another extension request.”
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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.