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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference in Miami on Feb. 1, 2022. (AP) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference in Miami on Feb. 1, 2022. (AP)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference in Miami on Feb. 1, 2022. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher February 4, 2022

Charlie Crist overstates in claim about ‘millions’ of expired COVID-19 tests in Florida

If Your Time is short

  • Crist overstated the number of expired tests, it was up to 1 million, not “millions.” 

  • Crist’s statement leaves the impression that the tests were no longer usable. However, because the tests were stored safely, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has allowed the tests to be used by March 2022.

  • DeSantis attributed their expiration to lack of demand and to pending approvals from the federal government. Before Florida could distribute the tests, the FDA had to sign off on their safety.

As COVID-19 deaths in Florida trended upward in late-January, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist attacked Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis over diagnostic tests that expired while stored in a state warehouse.

In a video ad placed on Facebook and Instagram, Crist said DeSantis "keeps pulling right-wing partisan political stunts in Florida, like letting millions of COVID-19 tests expire."

Screenshot of Charlie Crist's Jan. 28 ad on Facebook.
 

Crist represents Florida’s 13th Congressional district but is not seeking re-election in 2022. The former Republican previously served as the state’s governor. 

DeSantis is running for a second gubernatorial term in 2022 and is seen as a contender for the 2024 GOP nomination for president.

Number of tests expired not in the 'millions'

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said on Dec. 30 that Florida had "a significant number of COVID-19 tests stockpiled that are set to expire imminently." Fried, another Democratic candidate for governor, called on DeSantis to release the tests immediately to cities and counties.

We didn’t find any evidence that the expired tests numbered in the millions. When we asked Crist’s campaign about the ad, which began running Jan. 28, a spokesperson said Feb. 3 that "millions" was "a typo" and that the ad would be corrected. A new version of the ad, posted Feb. 3, says "up to a million" in the text, but the same video is used, in which Crist says "millions."

Florida emergency management director Kevin Guthrie on Jan. 6 said the state had between 800,000 and 1 million rapid-test kits manufactured by Abbott in a warehouse "that did expire" earlier in 2021.

DeSantis said the same day the tests were not distributed earlier in 2021 because of a lack of demand from testing sites. He also said they couldn’t be distributed in December — when Floridians were waiting in long lines at community testing sites — because state officials were waiting for federal approval for the tests to be used after their listed expiration.

Florida began distributing the tests after a Jan. 7 approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Expiration date extensions

Abbott and the federal government, in effect, gave Florida a three-month extension in September 2021 so that the tests would not be considered expired until late-December 2021, Guthrie said. Abbott made the extension request, as required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA regularly grants requests to extend the shelf life of medical products if the products have been properly stored.

But the tests remained in the warehouse after that initial extension. Guthrie said that before the tests expired in late-December, the state asked Abbott to request a second extension. The tests’ December expiration date passed before the FDA granted that additional extension on Jan. 7.

On Jan. 12, DeSantis said at a news conference that the FDA’s second three-month extension meant the tests could be used by March 2022. 

Florida Health Department spokesperson Jeremey Redfern told PolitiFact on Feb. 2 that 99% of the tests have been distributed to testing sites. 

Our ruling

Crist said DeSantis let "millions of COVID-19 tests expire."

Crist overstated the number of tests that expired, it was up to 1 million, not "millions." Crist’s statement leaves the impression that the tests were no longer usable. However, because the tests were stored safely, the FDA has allowed the tests to be used by March 2022.

Nearly all tests have been distributed to testing sites, according to the state’s health department.

DeSantis has acknowledged the tests twice passed their expiration dates in 2021. He attributed that to little demand from testing sites during most of the second half of 2021 and pending federal approval regarding the tests’ safety. 

Crist’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Our Sources

Facebook, Charlie Crist "I’m Charlie Crist, and I’m sick of Ron DeSantis" ad, ID: 2276961485777312, started running Jan. 28, 2022; ended Feb. 3, 2022

Facebook, revised Charlie Crist ad, posted Feb. 3, 2022

Email, Jeremy Redfern, press secretary, Florida Department of Health, Feb. 2, 2022

Email, Charlie Crist campaign press secretary Sam Ramirez, Feb. 2, 2022

Interview, Charlie Crist campaign spokesperson Joshua Karp, Feb. 3, 2022

Interview, Nikki Fried, Feb. 3, 2022

Tampa Bay Times, "Florida can still use those 1 million expired COVID-19 tests, after all," Jan. 11, 2022

Tampa Bay Times, "Tampa Bay residents line up at public sites for free COVID tests without appointments," Dec. 28, 2021

Associated Press, "Long Lines, Waits at COVID-19 Testing Sites in Florida," Dec. 26, 2021

Newsweek, "Video Showing Huge Queue in Florida for COVID Tests Goes Viral as Omicron Hits U.S.," Dec. 17, 2021

Johns Hopkins University, Florida coronavirus overview, accessed Feb. 1, 2022

South Florida Sun Sentinel, "DeSantis plays fast and loose with COVID facts to justify expired tests," Jan. 13, 2022

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, letter to Abbott, Jan. 7, 2022

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "Expiration Dating Extension," Dec. 21, 2021

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "BinaxNOWTM COVID-19 Ag CARD," accessed Feb. 3, 2022

News4Jax.com, "1M expired COVID tests to be used in Florida after FDA grants new extension, DeSantis says," Jan. 12, 2022

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Nikki Fried statement, Dec. 30, 2021

CBS News, "1 million COVID tests that expired in a Florida warehouse get FDA approval for use," updated Jan. 14, 2022

NBC News, "DeSantis confirms as many as 1 million Covid tests expired in state stockpile," Jan. 7, 2022

WFLA, "Gov. DeSantis: Up to 1 million COVID test kits expired in Florida warehouse due to low demand, not negligence," posted Jan. 6, 2022, updated Jan. 7, 2022 

YouTube, WPTV post of news conference excerpt, Jan. 6, 2022

YouTube, First Coast News news conference video, Jan. 11, 2022

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Charlie Crist overstates in claim about ‘millions’ of expired COVID-19 tests in Florida

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