Gov. DeSantis says shipment of drug hydroxychlorquine on way to Florida to help combat COVID-19

Shipments of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine are headed to Florida hospitals in four counties. Governor Ron DeSantis made the announcement at a news conference Saturday afternoon. He also mentioned at least 2,000 45-minute rapid coronavirus tests are coming to parts of Jacksonville and South Florida.

Production for hydroxychloroquine is ramping up as demand rises.

"If somebody is in really bad shape and there is no other treatment available and a doctor believes its something that could be helpful we want that patient to be able to have access to that," DeSantis said.

The drug is now part of numerous clinical trials throughout the world testing to see if it could help treat COVID-19 patients. In the U.S., there's currently two trials for hydroxychloroquine. One is already underway at the University of Minnesota. The other trail is at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and is set to begin enrollment next week.

"We actually had a Floridan who used it who was in very bad shape with COVID-19 he used it and it managed to clear up the lungs at the virus," DeSantis said.

However, hydroxychloroquine hasn't been approved as COVID-19 treatment. It's currently used as an anti-malaria drug and is also prescribed to patients with lupus and arthritis.

"I'm not a doctor. I'm not telling anyone to take it or not take it, but I do believe in the idea of the right to try," DeSantis said.

RELATED: Lupus patients fear shortage of critical drug as COVID-19 clinical trials begin

At Saturday's news conference DeSantis announced plans to ship the drug to Florida hospitals in 4 counties, including Hillsborough County.

Also on its way to Florida are about 2,000 rapid tests able to produce results in 45 minutes.

"Quick results I think one allows the hospitals to do a better job, doctors to do a better job and healthcare professionals to do a better job and it also gives a lot of people peace of mind," DeSantis said.

Late Friday night, the FDA issued an Emergency Authorization Use for a newly developed rapid test able to produce results in five minutes.

"This is as close to instant test that we have on the market now. It's similar to a flu test and we believe this could be really game changing," DeSantis said.

Illinois-based Abbott Labs developed the test which includes a 6-pound platform about the size of a toaster. The device uses molecular technology to produce the results.

Starting next week, the company plans to produce 50,000 tests per day.

"Innovative point of care testing is critical for #patients and #providers," FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a tweet published Saturday. "Rapid and accurate diagnosis can make all the difference in treatment and outcomes."

Saturday morning, DeSantis reached out to President Trump about getting the tests to Florida.

"He was very supportive. He's supportive of everything we are doing so my hope is that Florida can be in that initial mix," DeSantis said.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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