U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel are pushing the federal government for additional supplies to help test Floridians for the COVID-19 virus.
Deutch and Frankel authored a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar Thursday, noting the nearly 2,000 confirmed cases in the state as of Wednesday night.
The number of confirmed cases has begun to sharply rise in the state as testing capacity increases. But health officials are still facing limitations in conducting those tests.
“Unfortunately, efforts to expand testing capacity in the State have been hampered by shortages of testing supplies,” the letter reads.
“In particular, the Florida Department of Emergency Management reported that they have been unable to acquire adequate supply of swabs and other materials necessary for the collection and transport of patient samples to laboratories for testing.”
Despite President Donald Trump’s repeated assertions that anyone who wants a test can have one, that’s not the case here in Florida or anywhere else. With widespread testing, officials would be capable of quarantining known patients. But with the country lagging behind on the ability to test, officials are ordering sweeping stay-at-home orders targeted at wide swaths of the population as a precautionary measure.
The number of confirmed cases has been exploding in New York, with more than 30,000 positive tests. That’s already led to a strain on the New York City hospital system, a reality Deutch and Frankel are hoping to avoid in Florida.
“Without testing, the virus will spread silently, and we will not know the extent of the spread until cases show up in our emergency departments,” the letter continues.
“The continued spread of this virus could completely overwhelm our state’s health system. Our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 will be hindered unless we know where and how far it has spread through a robust testing program. The ongoing expansion of test sites and lab availability will be wasted if we cannot secure the necessary supplies including swabs, protective equipment, and other materials needed to collect, transport, and test as many Floridians as possible.”
Deutch and Frankel closed the letter with a final push to Azar.
“We ask that you urgently work with the White House, Vice President [Mike] Pence and the Coronavirus Task Force, Gov. [Ron] DeSantis, and our State agencies to rush testing supplies to Florida.”
The two also joined a Wednesday call to ask DeSantis to issue a statewide stay-at-home order. Deutch also signed onto a mid-March letter appealing to the feds for additional medical supplies to handle the expected uptick in hospital patients.