Florida Health Dept. issues new COVID-19 testing guidelines

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Florida Surgeon Gen. Dr. Joseph A. Ladapo before a bill signing by Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Brandon, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — New COVID-19 testing guidance issued by the Florida Department of Health prioritizes testing of higher-risk individuals who show symptoms of COVID-19 and encourages residents to seek treatment.

According to the new FDOH guidance, individuals who should seek testing if they present COVID-19 symptoms are those “at an increased risk,” with the group defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That group includes seniors, aged 65 and older, individuals with medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, chronic lung diseases, heart conditions or those who have weakened immune systems or are immunocompromised, and the pregnant or recently pregnant.

If the individuals listed as being at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 show symptoms of the virus, FDOH said they should get tested for COVID-19 soon after symptoms appear, and should seek “early monoclonal antibody or antiviral drug treatment and seek other medical treatment as necessary.”

Additionally, for individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19 but are asymptomatic, the Dept. of Health said COVID-19 testing “is unlikely to have any clinical benefits.”

The new guidance comes after promises by both Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo were made throughout the week to update the state’s testing guidance, while county testing sites have had hours-long wait times and long lines for multiple days due to increased demand amid the spread of the omicron variant.

DeSantis said at a news conference in West Palm Beach that the state was working to secure and distribute one million at-home COVID-19 testing kits across the state, a follow-up to previous comments on the state concerns over federal testing management.

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