DeSantis Admin Squanders a Million COVID-19 Tests

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis admitted Thursday that up to one million COVID rapid test kits the state had stockpiled expired unused in a warehouse. We know about this only because a state government whistleblower told Nikki Fried about it:

The issue of the expiring tests was first raised by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democratic candidate for governor. In a Dec. 30 statement, she said: “It’s come to my attention that Governor DeSantis’ Department of Health has a significant number of COVID-19 tests stockpiled that are set to expire imminently.”

“Given the Governor’s lack of transparency throughout this pandemic, there’s no known public information about these tests or how soon they expire,” she said. “With omicron infections exploding throughout Florida, I beg of him to release these tests immediately to local counties and cities, and to stand up state-sponsored testing sites. To let these tests expire while Floridians anxiously wait for hours in testing lines is negligent at best, and heartless at worst.”

Responding to DeSantis’ remarks on Thursday, Fried tweeted: “He just admitted that they have a stockpile of ‘800,000 to a million’ expired COVID-19 tests they never sent out.”

DeSantis and his team are bold-faced liars who have brazened their way out of countless inexcusable failures during the pandemic. Predictably, they’re trying to brazen their way out of this jam too:

“Florida had one of the lowest COVID rates in the country during fall, so the demand for testing was correspondingly low,” DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw told CBS News. “Though tests went unused due to insufficient demand, as the governor said: it’s better to be overprepared than underprepared.”

Yet, in August, Florida reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19 — the most infections in a single day since the start of the pandemic.

And the state currently has the second-highest 28-day COVID case average in the U.S., with more than 745,200 reported cases in that time frame, according to Johns Hopkins University, and 615 deaths. The state has had nearly 4.5 million cases since COVID first hit the nation.

Many Florida residents have questioned DeSantis’ claim of “low demand” for the tests.

Emphasis mine, and God I hope more Floridians are finally examining the sociopathic governor’s ridiculous claims. Before the holidays, people were desperately trying to find tests and mobbing any site where they heard tests were available. It was all over the news, and we now know this occurred while DeSantis and crew were sitting on a giant stockpile.

Days before Fried’s comments forced DeSantis to admit he had a massive cache of unused and now expired tests, DeSantis and his crackpot surgeon general, Dr. Ladapo, rolled out a Trump-like “there’s too much testing” media strategy. Ladapo scolded Floridians for supposedly “planning and living [their lives] around testing,” which, in addition to being condescending as fuck, contradicts Ladapo’s boss’s claim that demand for tests was low. As of Thursday, this became Florida’s official public health guidance:

Individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19, but have no symptoms:

COVID-19 testing is unlikely to have any clinical benefits.

The mind-numbing idiocy and gaslighting continued yesterday:

As these derelict chuckle-fucks surely know, tests for asymptomatic people who’ve been exposed to COVID isn’t about individual clinical benefits but rather PUBLIC health benefits, i.e., keeping asymptomatic infected people from spreading the disease to others. So what’s up with all the lying and bamboozlement?

I think the state almost certainly sat on those tests and is now issuing this guidance that contradicts the public health expert consensus because they want to limit political damage to DeSantis for his ongoing mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis. DeSantis claims he didn’t know about the stockpile of now-expired tests, and possibly that’s even true.

But DeSantis has loaded every state agency with Republican hacks, sycophants and donors whose primary job is to turn the organizations into political assets for DeSantis as he gears up to run for president. He probably didn’t personally forbid state university professors from testifying as expert witnesses in cases opposing DeSantis-championed voter suppression laws or bans on mask mandates either. But his appointees/donors got it done, at great cost to the flagship public university’s reputation.

I keep hoping the growing evidence that DeSantis is focused on self-promotion at the expense of everything else — our health, our university and K-12 education system, the state’s economy — will finally motivate Floridians to kick his ass out of office later this year. But so far, he’s been a Teflon motherfucker, for reasons I cannot fathom. Maybe a sufficient number of the registered independents who decide every election will get a fucking clue this time, but I’m not holding my breath.

Open thread.


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