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Florida Has Paid More Than $16 Million In Contracts To Private Labs For COVID-19 Testing

Virus Outbreak Florida
Lynne Sladky/AP
An employee of the Florida Department of Health puts up a sign at a testing site for COVID-19 at the West Perrine Health Center during the new coronavirus pandemic, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Miami. The walk-up site is a joint operation between the Florida Department of Health and Community Health of South Florida, Inc. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Florida has paid $16,279,852 in contracts to private laboratories for coronavirus testing as of Friday afternoon. The state’s COVID-19 information center tells WFSU “that number includes cost of collection kits and lab testing.”

Quest Diagnostics, BioReference Laboratories, Inc. and Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp) are some of the companies that have performed the most tests for Floridians. Quest Diagnostics in Tampa reports performing more than 200,000 tests, BioReference and LabCorp more than 100,000 each.

Private labs account for the vast majority of the state’s testing efforts, which Governor Ron DeSantis has said in recent weeks “exceed demand.” More than 48,000 of the state’s 53,000-plus cases have been confirmed by private testing labs.

The state Department of Health reports this week Florida is nearing one million total tests on Floridians, at about 984,000. Though, the state has been counting retests in its total test count. DeSantis clarified during a press conference in April that the state’s “total” number tested, doesn’t represent unique individuals tested.

“If LabCorp sends in (to DOH) 5,000 test results, LabCorp does not distinguish between someone who’s never had a test, or someone who tested positive and tested negative twice. It’s just not the way it’s done. So, we feel getting the information out, explaining how it’s done on the second page, probably makes sense.”

DeSantis has also told media some private testing labs have accounted for surges in single-day COVID-19 positive cases, as reported by DOH.

Earlier this month, DeSantis confirmed a one-day spike of 553 cases reported in Miami-Dade County was a glitch in reporting from a private lab, which he didn’t name.

“Miami at their peak had had 500 (in one day), but more recently had been about 150, and when they would go above that it was usually because of the Homestead prison,” the Governor said during a press conference in Orlando. “So we thought maybe that was because of the prison outbreak. It turns out, of the 500 cases reported yesterday from Miami, 400 of them were backlogged cases from three weeks ago, from April 24.”

DeSantis has made it a priority for state-run testing labs to increase their numbers. He set a goal for three state-run labs to stand ready to process “tens of thousands” per day during the summer.