Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday said Florida will not reopen state-operated COVID-19 test sites and will instead look to local governments to continue testing operations throughout the state.
Under the CARES Act, DeSantis said local governments are well-funded and can maintain testing operations despite the summer surge of COVID-19 cases.
What’s more, he highlighted the availability of at-home coronavirus tests that are available for purchase.
“Our view is that this is so available throughout society right now,” DeSantis said, adding that municipalities are welcome to expand testing operations if they wish.
The question of additional testing sites comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reach an all-time high in the Sunshine State.
According to data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida peaked Monday to a record high of 11,515 patients.
Still, even despite calls from some doctors, DeSantis suggested additional testing is fruitless.
“Quite frankly, we spent a lot of money on the testing,” DeSantis said of the early stages of the pandemic. “I don’t think it did anything to bend the viral curve.”
Facing a variant of the virus that has taken root primarily among unvaccinated populations, DeSantis is facing heightened pressure to ramp up public health measures.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki criticized DeSantis for blocking school mask mandates and described the move as politically motivated.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — Florida’s sole statewide elected Democrat and a gubernatorial contender — has held several COVID-19 briefings to address Florida’s “void” of pandemic data.
For his part, DeSantis said he wants parents to decide whether their children should wear a mask to school.
“I think the White House tried to say I prohibited parents from making that decision,” DeSantis told reporters. “It’s just the opposite. We’re empowering them.”
He also claimed the outbreak is seasonal, caused by people gathering indoors to avoid Florida’s heat and humidity.
Similar to vaccines, DeSantis said testing in Florida remains plentiful.
“They’re really in every pharmacy at this point and people have very easy access to do it,” he added.