Fla. surgeon general, governor question federal government's COVID testing approach

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state's surgeon general are questioning the need for widespread COVID-19 testing as cases of the omicron variant surge.

They argue the Federal government's plan to provide hundreds of millions of at-home kits is not only unneeded – but unhelpful.

"What you are seeing is there are people going to the drug stores, buying all these tests," said Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida). "They’ll go multiple times per week to the sites and test, without symptoms. That is just going to contribute to some of the crunch that you are seeing."

The governor and the state's top health official pointed out omicron is not as deadly as previous variants, and argued there's a difference between what they call "low-value" and "high-value" testing. 

RELATED: DeSantis calls on Biden administration to allow states to purchase monoclonal antibody treatments

Does an asymptomatic third-grader need to be tested the way a grandparent does?

"We are going to be working to unwind the testing psychology that our federal leadership has managed to get most of the country in over the last two years," said surgeon general Dr. Joseph Ladapo.

They argue too many "low-value" testers are gumming up the system for those who need results right away.

"It is really time for people to be living, to make the decisions they want regarding vaccination, to enjoy the fact that many have natural immunity."

RELATED: Tampa COVID-19 test site remains busy after holidays, city prepares to open second location

Bre Pindell waited in line at Al Lopez Park on Monday for over an hour, hoping her symptoms are only allergies.

"[I] don't want to pass it on to any kids, don't want to pass it on to any of their family members," she said.

The latest numbers put out by the state show a 26.5% positivity rate, well above the 5% target among public health experts.

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University of South Florida Virologist Michael Teng says widespread testing is critical for knowing where outbreaks are happening, and also how the asymptomatic can impact others.

"COVID is a potentially deadly disease. It just makes sense to know so you can actually set up an appropriate treatment plan," Teng explained.

It is unclear what the governor and surgeon general's plan will look like, in terms of how the new guidance will dictate who should get a test.