Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo is discouraging coronavirus tests for people at lower risk of severe outcomes, such as children and those without symptoms, saying the state’s health guidelines will soon reflect this, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
This flies in the face of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends that people get tested if they have symptoms, have had close contact with someone with COVID-19, or if they are not fully vaccinated.
Ladapo’s comments taking aim at mass testing also come after President Joe Biden’s administration last month announced a plan to distribute 500 million at-home coronavirus tests, CBS Miami reported.
The Florida Department of Health’s recommendations will encourage tests only for those more likely to need treatment for COVID-19, such as the elderly, Ladapo said.
"My department’s goal ... doesn’t restrict access to testing, but reduces the use of low-value testing and prioritizes high-value testing," Ladapo said. "High-value testing is testing that is likely to change outcomes. We need to unwind this … planning and living one’s life around testing."
Florida International University epidemiologist Mary Jo Trepka criticized Ladapo, telling the Orlando Sentinel that he wrongly implies that the highest value gained from testing is determining whether someone needs to be treated for coronavirus, when the more valuable aspect is actually reducing community spread through the ability of tests to tell someone whether they need to isolate.
Trepka added that "we don’t really have an effective treatment for COVID-19 with the omicron variant ... but I would argue that you can really prevent a lot of infections if you test widely, because then those people who are asymptomatic or very mildly ill can find out if they have COVID-19 and then they can ... avoid spending time with highly vulnerable people."
Elena Cyrus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine, emphasized that community testing has guided public health responses for decades and helped control viruses together with measures such as vaccination.
Gov. Ron DeSantis supported Ladapo’s decision and said reduced testing would also help boost access to tests statewide for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly.
"What you are seeing is there are people going to the drug stores, buying all these tests. 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," DeSantis said.
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