BROWARD (CBSMiami) – On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that coronavirus antibody testing would begin at the Hard Rock Stadium testing site and at other sites in Florida, with health care workers and first responders getting priority.
But the governor’s office told CBS 4 News that none of those sites were in Broward, even though the county requested a portion of the rapid tests that the state just received from a company called Cellex. So, Broward County leaders spoke to the governor on Wednesday afternoon and made their pitch.
Deputy County Administrator Monica Cepero said the county got the answer it wanted.
“He confirmed that he would be sending us a couple thousand of those antibody tests,” she told CBS 4 News.
Cepero said those tests will allow the county to begin an antibody study with help from Nova Southeastern University.
She said these types of rapid antibody tests reveal much more about the true spread of COVID-19 in the community by showing people who may have been infected but never showed symptoms.
“If there is a hot spot or if we see a concentration of a large number of positives from the antibody testing, we might be able to send other types of tests to that area to see if it’s active,” she said.
And that is a crucial step in trying to get to a phase one reopening for Broward which would entail a reopening of some retail stores and restaurants, with limited capacity. Right now, county leaders say they meet all of the criteria for a gradual reopening, like a decrease in COVID-19 cases and adequate hospital space. What they lack is robust testing. They hope the antibody tests can help fill the gap.
“That’s what we’re trying to really do is to help provide additional data, increase testing, particularly in the antibody area, so that we might be able to be ready for these next phases to open up,” Cepero said.
Cepero said the topic of restaurants also came up with DeSantis during Broward’s call on Wednesday. Earlier this week, Mayor Dale Holness told CBS 4 News that some restaurant owners say 25 percent capacity for restaurants is too low.
“At less than 50 percent it’s gonna be costly for them to open,” Holness said.
But DeSantis’ order is for only 25 percent capacity inside and Cepero said any change to that order would have to come from the governor. There are discussions about allowing restaurants extra space outside on sidewalks and parking spots to add tables. That might make sense for some, but not all, said Aaron Abramoff, Chief Financial Officer for The Restaurant People, which owns and operates 9 restaurants in Fort Lauderdale including Yolo and the Boatyard.
“If you have an indoor restaurant-only at 25 percent that’s a very small sliver of opportunity to make revenue,” Abramoff said. “I don’t know many restauranteurs that that would make sense if they just had that.”
It’s one of many questions the county must answer before gradually reopening. Also on Thursday, county leaders said they’re not ready to reopen beaches, so they extended the beach closure order.
“That is something we would look at in a future phase,” Cepero said.