Florida officials confirmed last week that between 800,000 andhad expired in a warehouse just before the New Year due to “low demand”. On January 7, the Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to Abbott Diagnostics, which produced the tests, saying they have extended the shelf life of these tests and they can still be used.
The Florida Department of Health provided the FDA letter to CBS News, in which the agency says the thousands of BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card tests can be used through March. The extension, the FDA said, is based on the results of Abbott’s ongoing stability studies.
The tests, according to Florida Health Department Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern, are prepackaged kits that must be administered by “trained individuals” and are not designed for individual use.
The Department of Health told CBS News that the shelf life of the tests was originally extended in April and they expired in September 2021. The state then requested another extension, said Kevin Guthrie, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management last week.
According to the state, testing will now go to “county emergency management offices, county health departments, public safety agencies, hospitals and long-term care facilities.”
The expired test stockpile was first discovered by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in December when someone she described as “pretty senior in the governor’s office” leaked information.
She tweeted about the stock on December 30, as the COVID-19 Omicron variant surged through Florida.
It wasn’t until a week later, on Jan. 6, that Florida officials confirmed the stock’s information at a press conference.
“We had between 800,000 and one million test kits — Abbott test kits — in our warehouse that expired,” Kevin Guthrie, director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, said at the conference. “We tried to distribute them before that, but there was no demand for it.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at the time that the tests had already been extended into September, but “there wasn’t a lot of demand for them.”
“They sent them as requested. There was no holdback,” he said. “It’s just that the FDA hasn’t responded to DEM about whether you can still send.”
DeSantis said at last week’s press conference that the state wanted to provide the tests to long-term care facilities when they originally received them, but the facilities said they did not. staff available to administer them. He said Omicron was the reason for the latest surge in demand and that “there wasn’t a lot of COVID going around” in the summer and fall.
The Florida Department of Health reiterated that claim to CBS News on Friday, saying “COVID cases were so low in Florida that there wasn’t enough demand to use the tests before they expired.”
On July 30, Florida reportedof COVID-19 – which, at the time, was the highest number of infections in a single day since the start of the pandemic. In the week leading up to Dec. 30, when the stockpile of COVID tests was released, more than one million COVID tests were performed in the state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 3 million tests were carried out in the month preceding this date.
Florida residents also described months of difficulty getting tests, with long lines and few test appointments available.
Fried said on Tuesday that she was “happy that we were able to reveal the truth and help facilitate the extension.”
“As I’ve said throughout the pandemic, knowledge is power,” she said. “Testing provides individuals with the information needed to protect others if they have COVID-19 and is a vital tool in our fight against this virus.”