TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 tests that expired during a downturn in cases in Florida are still usable after the FDA extended their shelf life.
The Florida Department of Health reports the extension pushes their expiration dates to March.
The tests originally expired last month while sitting in a state-run warehouse. Governor Ron DeSantis said the kits sat in storage because the demand for testing declined.
Last week, the state acknowledge that between 800,000 and 1 million had an original expiration date in September, but the FDA said the kits could still be used through December. That’s when the state asked the FDA to further extend the expiration date.
"Having a stockpile was the right thing to do. If we had done the opposite, we would have run out," DeSantis said during a Friday news conference. "No one really wanted them for many, many months. As the expiration date was coming, they had already gotten one extension, they had asked, can you do more, can you do more? So hopefully they'll answer that... At the same time, if they're not accurate, we don't want to be giving anyone a false sense."
The tests are for testing sites, not for use at home.
Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, a Democrat who's running for governor against DeSantis, initially exposed the issue last week. She told FOX 13 Friday the tests could have really helped during the current COVID surge, which has seen long lines at testing sites across the state.
"Absolutely outraged by the fact of complete dereliction of his responsibility," Fried said. "There should have been some proactive approach at some point to have either already asked for the waiver or to have done some type of swapping out with other facilities that may have had tests that were going to expire at a later point of time."
After the FDA granted the extension on the tests, Fried said she had been in contact with the federal government about the tests and was glad the tests could still be used.
"Last week, I spoke directly with officials with the White House’s COVID-19 Response Team on the hopes that if quality assurances were met, these kits could be used to help address testing shortages as Floridians are facing long lines and record daily cases as omicron surges," Fried said in a statement. "I am glad that we were able to bring the truth to light and help facilitate the extension that’s been granted so these tests won’t go to waste to the detriment of the people of Florida."
She urged the DeSantis administration to distribute the tests as soon as possible and to work with the federal government to get tests to those who need them.
"As I’ve said throughout the pandemic, knowledge is power. Testing provides individuals the information needed to protect others if they have COVID-19 and is a critical tool in our fight against this virus," Fried said.