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Ron DeSantis is announing the first wave of coronavirus antibody tests. Image via AP.

Coronavirus in Florida

Governor launches mobile testing and antibody screening in South Florida

A mobile lab will process up to 500 tests per day.

Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state is beginning efforts to offer both mobile diagnostic testing as well as a separate antibody tests as Phase One of the state’s reopening plan continues.

Those two efforts will accomplish different goals as the state slowly seeks a return to normal. The mobile testing effort will allow individuals to more quickly know whether they are currently infected with the novel coronavirus. The antibody tests let someone know if they have ever been infected.

“Basically, people that have had the disease, their body will generate antibodies to fight it,” DeSantis explained Wednesday. “And we can then test to see whether you have the antibodies.”

Health experts are currently attempting to determine whether those who have contracted the virus will be immune going forward. While there are no hard answers to that question yet, DeSantis seemed to express confidence on that point Wednesday.

“We do believe — I think most people believe — that it will confer a certain level of immunity,” he said. “They’re disagreeing about maybe how long. But I think that that’s probably the safest assumption.”

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The Governor is correct that is a likely assumption — though some may quibble with his use of the word “safest” — but it has not been confirmed as of yet. Researchers are also evaluating whether transferring plasma from recovered coronavirus patients — which contains the antibodies — into those still reeling from the virus can help the infected recover.

The FDA approved the new antibody tests and results can come within 15 minutes, DeSantis said.

“We have 200,000 and we have more on the way,” DeSantis added.

Antibody tests will be available at a drive-thru testing site at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens — the site of Wednesday’s news conference.

“The first folks who are going to come through here are going to be the health care workers and the first responders just because they’re the most likely to have been exposed,” DeSantis explained.

“But I think the strategy would be to expand that once we do these folks.”

The Governor says the state has also offered some antibody tests to hospital systems. Tests will also be available at drive-thru sites in Orange County and Jacksonville.

The testing ramp-up include mobile testing that will, at first, be targeted toward the state’s assisted living facilities and long-term care centers.

The mobile lab can travel to those facilities and return results within 45 minutes.

“It takes 24, 48 hours at least to get those results when you’re sending it to a private lab,” DeSantis noted.

“Now, with this, you’d be able to go to long-term care facilities, get results back almost immediately, and then be able to — if there is a case — isolate the worker, isolate the resident appropriately.”

The mobile testing site will be dedicated toward diagnostic testing, which determines whether an individual is currently infected with the virus.

“It’ll be more, probably, a hub-and-spoke model, where you’ll go in a general area where there are multiple long-term care facilities,” DeSantis added. “Then you’ll have people ferreting out to various facilities, getting samples, and then we’re able to run them through the test site.”

StatLab will run the mobile lab. Ten members of the Florida National Guard and 10 nurses will work with the mobile lab.

“This is going to be around the clock,” the Governor said. “We’re going to be processing 500 tests a day just on the mobile testing site, and 3,500 a week.”

Late last month, DeSantis also pushed to permit pharmacists to conduct COVID-19 tests. On Wednesday, DeSantis announced Walgreens will be offering drive-thru services in Miami and Opa-locka.

“They have seven drive-thru sites that they’re going to be setting up, and they have two of those in Miami-Dade County.”

Experts have warned against a widespread reopening without the ability to rapidly screen individuals, which would allow them to be isolated.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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