Florida’s governor and the state’s top health official on Monday downplayed the need for ongoing and repetitive COVID-19 testing and refused to encourage people to get vaccinated as coronavirus cases soared in the Sunshine State.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo likely offered the guidance — for lack of a better term — that runs counter to directives from national public health officials because of Florida’s glaring shortage of rapid testing kits.
Ladapo, who is a renowned vaccine skeptic and anti-masker, said that frequent testing is “low-value” and claimed without proof that eliminating that practice would help reduce cases, or “likely change outcomes,” as he put it. He also suggested that testing frequently is an intrusion in people’s lives when announcing that Florida would be implementing the strategy of prioritizing so-called “high-value” testing moving forward.
“We need to unwind this sort of planning and living one’s life around testing. Without it, we’re going to be stuck in the same cycle,” Ladapo said during a press conference he held with DeSantis in Fort Lauderdale. “So it’s really time for people to be living, to make the decisions they want regarding vaccination, to enjoy the fact that many people have natural immunity. And to unwind this preoccupation with only COVID as determining the boundaries and constraints and possibilities of life. And we’re going to start that in Florida.”
Neither Ladapo nor DeSantis appealed to Floridians to get vaccinated as a way to protect against the virus.
The entire press conference and sentiments expressed in it ran counter to national public health guidelines, which have been emphasizing the strategic use of frequent testing to help contain the pandemic. That goes for asymptomatic people, too, including and especially for children before they return to school. Rapid tests can also help glean key information that can keep children in schools.
National public health officials have long said that testing was never going to eliminate the pandemic. However, frequent testing, they say, can help keep vulnerable people safe as well as prevent transmission of the virus.
Ladapo’s apparently inability to recognize that one transmission event can spawn into multiple additional transmissions and lead to an exponential spread that can affect people who are at risk is detrimental to public health in Florida, where the seven-day average for COVID-19 cases was at nearly 33,000 people as of Monday.
Public health officials also say that frequent testing can help to identify people who might not even know they’ve been exposed to COVID-19.
Considering that there is a national shortage of at-home tests, national public health officials have called for them to be strategically placed where they are most beneficial, like in the homes of people who are most at risk. If any of those folks test positive after testing themselves, they can be prioritized for the new oral pills to treat the virus.
Apparently, none of that matters to Ladapo and DeSantis.