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COVID-19 tests expire unused; University of Florida sued over alleged academic freedom infringement; state legislative session awaits

Ladapo
News Service of Florida
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Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, shown last month with Gov. Ron DeSantis, issued a statement Tuesday about an incident with Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton.

The highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19 surged across the state this week, and thousands scrambled to get tested for the virus. Long lines at testing centers and sold-out drugstore shelves angered Florida residents trying to figure out if they were positive.

At a COVID-19 briefing on Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the state would focus on testing what he called “high-value” patients as cases surge.

DeSantis believes other states are making the wrong decisions when dealing with the resurgence of COVID-19. Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo says there’s been too much reliance on testing.

DeSantis said he plans to prioritize elderly and at-risk residents and will send 1 million test kits to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The tests are expected to arrive this weekend.

Meanwhile, the DeSantis administration came under new scrutiny this week when it acknowledged that nearly a million other at-home test kits have been sitting unused here in Florida. They have since expired.

Guests:

University of Florida sued over alleged academic freedom infringement 

A federal judge refused Monday to dismiss a lawsuit filed by three University of Florida professors: Sharon Austin, Michael McDonald and Daniel Smith.

The academics are nationally renowned experts on elections. They have been challenging a policy that blocked them from testifying against the state. They claim officials at the university denied their request to serve as plaintiffs’ witnesses in a case about new state election laws that make it harder for Floridians to vote by mail.

The professors say their First Amendment rights have been violated. Critics of UF say the decision infringes on academic freedom.

There was a hearing in the case just this morning.

The president of UF, Kent Fuchs, announced this week that he would step down at the end of the year, although his departure was planned before the dispute with the professors.

Guest: Sharon Austin, UF professor of political science at the University of Florida.

State legislative session

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing and fall elections looming, Florida lawmakers will start their annual 60-day legislative session next week.

There are several significant issues to watch during this session, from abortion to education, not to mention voting rights and redistricting and even potential changes to the state’s property insurance laws.

Guest: John Kennedy, Gannett Florida Capitol reporter.

Florida Roundup Associate Producer Katherine Hobbs can be reached at khobbs@wjct.org or on Twitter at @KatherineGHobbs.