The federal government will once again begin sending COVID-19 treatments to Florida after halting their distribution, Gov. Ron DeSantis says.
The feds are expected to send 30,000 to 40,000 doses of monoclonal antibody therapy to Florida to combat the record-breaking COVID-19 spread in the state.
While Democrats have called on the Governor to increase the state’s vaccine and testing capacity during the omicron spike, the DeSantis administration has focused on monoclonal antibody therapy as a COVID-19 treatment. In the last week, Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo criticized the federal government’s “completely senseless decision” to cut supply of the treatment option over fears it isn’t effective against the omicron variant.
In his first news conference of the New Year on Monday, DeSantis joined Ladapo in his complaints.
“It’s something that we actually have seen applied with omicron patients, and we have seen symptoms resolve,” DeSantis said. “It may not be as good as it was against delta, but we obviously want to have that here for patients to be able to do it.”
With the extra doses, the state plans to open additional treatment sites in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, as well as in Central Florida. Florida could also add five to 10 more sites, depending on demand. However, the scaling up is contingent on the federal government sending the additional doses, DeSantis noted.
The Governor’s announcement comes after Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and more called on DeSantis to respond more strongly to the pandemic, mainly by increasing vaccinations and testing. But vaccines aren’t preventing infections, the Governor said Tuesday, pointing to the heightened number of breakthrough cases with the omicron variant.
Ladapo also outlined a plan to prioritize “high value testing” of high-risk individuals like the elderly over testing low-risk individuals like children. The final plan would be one that “doesn’t restrict access to testing.”
“We’re going to be working to unwind the sort of testing psychology that our federal leadership has managed to, unfortunately, get most of the country in over the last two years,” Ladapo said. “We need to unwind this … planning and living one’s life around testing. Without it, we’re going to be sort of stuck in the same cycle.”
DeSantis said Florida is taking action where the federal government empowers the state but is also preventing fear from dictating state policy.
“You can’t go down that road, because they’re just never going to be able to get out of that rut, and it’s just going to continue to hurt a lot of people, and it ain’t going to do anything to slow down or to stop an incredibly contagious airborne virus,” DeSantis said.
Early signs show cloth masks aren’t as effective at preventing the spread of the omicron variant, and some medical experts have called on people to start wearing high-filtration masks like N95s. With schools approaching the second half of their academic years and despite the heightened COVID-19 spread, the Governor emphasized that Florida will stay the course on keeping schools open without mask requirements.
“Let’s just be honest with people about when you have something that’s this widespread, that is airborne, simply putting cloth over and thinking that somehow that is going to provide good protection, that’s just not accurate,” DeSantis said. “Fauci will not admit that. He said it’s still effective against omicron. I don’t know how he would know that, but that’s what he said.”
On Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 39,797 new COVID-19 cases in Florida, increasing the total number of infections to 4.3 million. In seven days, the state added 362,618 new cases. In that time, the CDC reported 21 deaths in Florida.