Why did state officials let almost 1 million rapid tests expire?

MIAMI, Fla. – As south Floridians waited in hours-long testing lines ahead of the Christmas holiday, Florida’s Director of Emergency Management said between 800,000 and 1 million rapid test kits in a warehouse had expired.

“We received a three-month extension on those test kits, which ended up expiring between Dec. 26 to Dec. 30. We tried to give them out beforehand but there was no demand for it,” said Kevin Guthrie, the State Division of Emergency Management Director.

Yet the kits expired after a Dec. 21 letter by Miami-Dade County’s Mayor Daniella Levine Cava to the Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo asking “that all possible tests be directed to Miami-Dade County to meet the growing demand for testing in our community.”

The Florida Division of Emergency Management reported test kits expired in a ware house.

A spokesperson from Cava’s office stated: “We are asking that all possible tests that come through the state for distribution be allocated to Miami-Dade given the surge in demand in our community for testing options.”

On Dec. 31, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried issued a statement that Florida’s Department of Health had COVID-19 tests stockpiled. Local 10.com reached out to the Governor’s office that day for a response about her claims and did not receive a reply.

“To let these tests expire while Floridians anxiously wait for hours in testing lines is negligent at best, and heartless at worst,” she wrote in the statement.

Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Florida studying the omicron variant wave predict that the peak could come earlier than expected, possibly in mid-January.

In an e-mail to parents, the president for the University of South Florida stated that their experts project the wave will be “relatively short in duration, perhaps only a few more weeks.”

“So, if you look at the modeling the CDC just let out a few days ago, they are suggesting by the end of January we should have reached our peak,” said Dr. Jason Sameli of the University of South Florida.

Salemi says COVID predictive modeling is a big challenge and that so many variables play a role, including the biggest wild card of them all.

“What people’s behavior is going to be like. The size of the peak, how high we go, and how soon we get there – a lot of that still does have something to do with our actions from now on,” Salemi said

That includes compliance with new normal guidance from social distancing and masks to self-isolating when testing positive.

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."