COVID-19 Test Supply Shock In South Florida

Amy-Grace Shapiro, Feature Editor

In the midst of a recent uptick of COVID-19 cases during the past winter months, as many as one million COVID-19 rapid test kits went unused and expired in a Florida Warehouse — meanwhile, many searched for tests worldwide. 

In a news conference on Jan. 6, Florida Department of Emergency Management Director, Kevin Guthrie, explained that the mass of testing kits remained in a storage unit during the fall season when cases along with test demand were fairly low. Guthrie also noted that the Abbott Laboratories testing kits expired before Dec. 26 to Dec. 30 — just as Florida started experiencing a new wave of cases.

According to Johns Hopkins University, over the recent weeks, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Florida have risen sharply, with the state now averaging a total of 37,563 new cases daily. Similarly, as of Jan. 7, Florida reached a daily record level of 76,887 COVID-19 cases and saw a rise of more than 1,000 cases over the previous daily record of 75,732 on Dec. 30. 

Ever since Florida’s first confirmed case of the Omicron variant on Dec. 7, thousands of Floridians have waited in multiple hour-long lines at testing sites. At a popular testing site in South Florida at Tropical Park, lines for testing stretched back into the eastbound and westbound lanes of Bird Road

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the newly detected cases increased Florida’s total COVID-19 positivity rate to more than 4.56 million cases since the pandemic began. Florida’s COVID-19 related death toll reached 62,625.

Currently, the federal government has been asked for a three-month extension of the expiration date of the expired test. However, it had already extended the life of the tests for 90 days, Guthrie revealed in the conference. 

Although the possibility of whether Florida could have distributed its additional supply to other states in greater demand remains unclear, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has yet to announce if there was a national protocol for redistributing unused tests.