Florida to receive COVID-19 antibody testing kits Friday

coronavirus tests
The tests could reveal previously unknown cases of COVID-19.

Florida is expected to receive antibody tests Friday to help identify whether someone has previously contracted the novel coronavirus.

Gov. Ron DeSantis made the announcement Friday at Little Talbot Island State Park in Jacksonville.

“That will give us an indication of how widespread this thing was,” he said.

The University of Miami has tested people in Miami-Dade County and estimates that 160,000 people there had the antibodies while only 10,060 had tested positive.

“They did it in Santa Clara, California. Stanford looked at it. They believe that between 50 and 80 times more people in that county had the antibodies than have actually tested positive,” the Governor said, adding similar tests in Los Angeles County didn’t show rates that high, but still exponentially greater than testing alone.

If more people have already overcome the virus, that would indicate the fatality and hospitalization rates are lower than previously thought.

In Florida, 1,314 of the 33,829 residents who tested positive, or about 4%, have died. Meanwhile, 5,767, or 17%, have been hospitalized.

“You probably have the majority of people that have acquired this thing, had symptoms either so mild that they never even thought about getting medical attention, or perhaps no symptoms at all,” he added.

The virus’ lethality has implications for state policy. On Monday, the state will begin the first step in reopening society and the economy, but many services remain closed.

The state shutdown began in order to prevent a surge in hospitalizations and to protect the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, the most at-risk populations. If staff at nursing homes already have antibodies for the coronavirus, residents at those facilities would be at lower risk.

Children are likely asymptomatic carriers, according to U.S. public health experts, but some Europeans are suggesting parents might be more likely to spread the virus to their children. In Florida, schools are still in virtual learning through the remainder of the year, and camps are closed for the summer.

“I would love to be able to have the hard data to say that kids are not significant transmitters of this, because if that’s true, then man, we’ve got to do summer camps,” DeSantis said. “We’ve got to get back and get our kids back out doing things.”

The Governor himself has three children under 3 years old.

DeSantis renewed his suggestion that the virus was in Florida in February, ahead of the first positive result.

“The Super Bowl in Miami — I was talking to the head of the committee. I was like, there was no way we didn’t have this in the Super Bowl,” he said. “And people say, you know, my whole staff was sick that week, or what not. So I think it was here.”

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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