Mar 28, 2020
FL Governor Ron DeSantis Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript March 28
Ron DeSantis: (00:12)
Well, good afternoon everybody. I wanted to give an update on the COVID 19 fight in Florida. Before I go into some of the things that we’re doing. I just wanted to say on behalf of the state a thank you to all the folks who are in the trenches. To the nurses, the doctors, to the truck drivers who are bringing all the food and supplies in. The lab techs who are having to run all these samples through. All the volunteers who have stepped up to help in both the medical field and in others. People that are clerking at our grocery stores, which is very important this time of day… this time of year. Warehouse operators. Gas station employees.
Ron DeSantis: (00:48)
Thank you guys for what you’re doing. You’re doing a great job and I know the people of Florida really appreciate it. What we’re going to be doing today is sending out a text message to all Floridians reiterating the public health advisory that the surgeon general issued earlier during this fight. And, that is that for people that are 65 years or older or who have a serious underlying medical condition, the advisory is that you should stay at home. Protect yourself.
Ron DeSantis: (01:22)
Now’s not the time to go outside. And, don’t get involved with any big crowds. Make sure you’re doing the proper hygiene. And, just use this time to protect yourself. We know the evidence continues to come in that this is a virus that does particularly target those who have some significant underlying medical conditions and those who are elderly.
Ron DeSantis: (01:45)
So, we want those folks to really be staying at home and protecting themselves. And, we also want to thank all the Floridians who really have taken the hygiene to heart. You have people doing hand sanitizer, washing their hands more religiously, not getting involved in large groups. And, maintaining a six foot distance from people. That type of social distancing is probably the most effective thing that you can do to blunt the spread. And, so, we’ve had millions of people throughout the state really change behavior.
Ron DeSantis: (02:14)
I know a lot of us haven’t shaken hands with anybody for a month now. But, those little things really make a difference. So, thank you for doing it. We’ve been working very hard to expand testing. But, one of the things that I think you have to do is if somebody tests positive, there haven’t been very many effective treatments to fight COVID 19. One of the things that has been identified, and was currently being utilized in the state of New York, is this hydroxychloroquine. And, we actually had a Floridian who used it, was in very bad shape with COVID 19, used it and it seemed to clear up the lungs and the virus.
Ron DeSantis: (02:54)
Look, I’m not a doctor, I’m not telling anyone to take it or not take it. But, I believe in the idea of a right to try. If somebody is really in bad shape and there’s no other treatment available and a doctor believes this, something that could be helpful, we want that patient to be able to have access to that.
Ron DeSantis: (03:12)
And, so, I wanted to go out and figure out how we could get some hydroxychloroquine for some of the hospitals throughout Florida. Fortunately, and I want to thank the U-S ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who’s a friend of mine. I asked David, because I know there’s some Israeli pharmaceutical companies that have it. And, he was able to get us in contact with TIVA pharmaceuticals. And, so, working with TIVA now, we’ve now arranged shipments of the hydroxychloroquine to send to hospital systems in Dade County, Broward, Orlando, and Hillsborough.
Ron DeSantis: (03:45)
And, once they have it, if other hospitals need it, we want to be able to help everybody throughout the state. So, just let the emergency… department of emergency management know, and we will work to coordinate that. So, this will be something that the doctors can have at their disposal. I’m not saying anything about it. I just think that if somebody is in dire condition and may not have any other option, we want to be able to give them all the opportunities that they have.
Ron DeSantis: (04:12)
So, I want to thank TIVA for really turning around our order very quickly and getting that out. We also, thanks to Jared Moscowitz’ hard work, SEF EAD, a company, has created a rapid test for COVID 19. Recent, very, just came on the market. It’s a 45 minute test. And, they only did 10,000 of them to start. And, I’m happy to say Jared got over 2000 of those for Florida.
Ron DeSantis: (04:38)
So, we’re sending them down to South Florida as well as some to Jacksonville. And, I think this is really, really significant because the problem with the testing we have now is these private labs are overrun. Ideally, they would want to turn it around in 24, 48 hours. But, in fact, a lot of people have to wait three, four, five days to be able to get test results. And, I know that that causes a lot of angst for a lot of people.
Ron DeSantis: (05:02)
So, quick results. I think one is just allows the hospitals to do a better job, doctors to do a better job, healthcare professionals to do a better job. I think it also gives a lot of people peace of mind because they at least know what the result is. So, we’re really happy to be pushing that out. And, we’re always looking to get as many of these tests in Florida as we can.
Ron DeSantis: (05:23)
Some of you may have seen last night the F-D-A approved Abbott Laboratories five to ten… five to 15 minute rapid COVID 19 tests. They already have a platform in many doctor’s offices and hospitals around the country. And, this would be something that would go in that platform. I think you’d get a positive result within five minutes. And, the negative result would be within 15 minutes. So, this is as close to a instant test as we have on the market now.
Ron DeSantis: (05:54)
It’s similar to like a flu test. So, we believe that this could be really game changing here in the state of Florida. And, so, they’re going to be producing, we had a phone call with one of the executives this morning, they’re going to be producing 50,000 a day, I think, starting this coming week. And, we have asked to to be a big part of that. Florida is willing to pay our own way on that. But, getting some of those rapid tests down to the state of Florida would allow us to completely transform the testing situation here.
Ron DeSantis: (06:25)
Now, we’ve done almost 40,000 tests at this point. You go back two weeks, these tests were really hard to come by. So, people have done a great job on that and it’s continuing to trend upward. But, to be able to get a rapid test like Abbott Laboratories came out, I think it’s just absolutely game changing.
Ron DeSantis: (06:40)
So, when I called president Trump today, and the reason that I called them was, Abbott Labs is going to look like a lot of these folks are. At some type of guidance from the federal government on this stuff. They don’t want to be selling it to people if it’s not going to help the fight. So, I just asked the president, “Look, we’ll buy it ourselves. We’re not asking you to buy it for us. But, can you just let them know that sending some to Florida would really make an impact in our fight against COVID 19.” And, he was very supportive. He’s supportive of everything’s doing. So, my hope is that Florida can be in that initial mix as they start sending these tests throughout the country. But, boy, would that make life a lot easier to be able to do this.
Ron DeSantis: (07:23)
I mean, right now, you have people that’ll go into a hospital, they’ll have symptoms, they’ll get tested, then it’ll take five days for the test to come back. So, the hospital’s got to keep them somewhere. Wouldn’t it be great, they come in, they have symptoms, you test them 15 minutes later, you know it’s negative? And, then, you can have them go home and recover. So, we think that that’s very, very important.
Ron DeSantis: (07:42)
I think it’s really encouraging the number of tests that now are being done on a daily basis. This is far and away better than where we were two weeks ago. We’re still, Jared’s still working to get as much of the supplies needed for that as possible. And, we will do even more as we get those. What we were able to do recently was go to the villages and launch a new project.
Ron DeSantis: (08:07)
Now, some of it is, it was a drive through testing site. A lot of them came through on their golf carts. And, some of it was for clinical purposes. But, most of it was actually for research purposes. And, what they were trying to do, and this is the university of Florida and Shan’s. What they were trying to do is figure out how much is COVID 19 in populations where there are no symptoms. So, obviously, a place like the village that’s important to know given the demographics. So, they’ve been doing that. The first week they did 600 random samples for people in the villages who were asymptomatic. And, the good news on this is that zero came back COVID 19 positive. And, so, as we’re looking at how to approach this, a lot of the decisions that have been made have been made off things other than kind of hard data and hard facts.
Ron DeSantis: (08:58)
This gives us a little window into how this may have spread or not have spread in a community. Where you have a lot of folks who are over 60. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can take your eye off the ball. But, it does tell us at least something that we’ve been trying to do. So, I think it’s a very significant study. And, I really commend the folks at university of Florida for being willing to step up. And, I’m glad we were able to be a part of that.
Ron DeSantis: (09:25)
The travel update. We, as many of you know, did restrictions for people coming from some of these hot zones. Particularly the New York city area. Now, I don’t, as governor, have the ability to shut down flights. It’s a federal deal. The airports are run by local authorities. But, I think it’s an issue when you have folks who are in the hot zone then leaving the hot zone to come to different parts of the country.
Ron DeSantis: (09:52)
So, we instituted a 14 day self quarantine for everyone coming in from those airports in the New York city area. Every time they come in they’re now met by national guard and department of health personnel, their screened, they provide information, and they are just given the instructions about self isolation. This is actually already born fruit. Just yesterday there was a traveler from New York to Jacksonville who was on a flight and had previously tested positive for COVID 19. And, his symptoms abated so he thought it was okay to fly. Turns out the symptoms came back. So, he was intercepted when he came through the checkpoint and he was diverted to go to a hospital. And, so, that’s something that I think helps protect Floridians. And, I think that that’s something that is very, very good. Now, in terms of, and this is just something with, if you look at all the flights going on throughout the country, if you look at flight aware, you see all these flights everywhere. And, we’re either trying to fight this virus or we’re not.
Ron DeSantis: (10:54)
And, the more people are being shuttled around all over the country, I just think it makes it more difficult. And, so, we’ve done what we could here with New York city. And, we’re also doing the same with the New Orleans hotspot. Which, I think this virus had been trashed circulating throughout the country probably in February. Mardi Gras was probably a big deal. I think it really spread in New Orleans. We’re obviously rooting hard for new Orleans to do well. What we don’t want is for people to flee that hot zone and potentially bring the virus here.
Ron DeSantis: (11:21)
So, we did do an executive order with New Orleans. We have a checkpoint set up on I 10 as people are coming into the Florida panhandle. And, I think that that will be good. A way to deter folks from leaving those areas right now. We’re also going to work to put one up on I 95 for any type of New York area traffic coming down.
Ron DeSantis: (11:40)
And, again, the point is, we need those folks coming in to self isolate for 14 days. I just think, and the president had mentioned to me in the call, the reason I called him was it because of the Abbott Labs test. But, he had mentioned to me the possibility of doing a quarantine around the New York city area. And, my issue is, whatever works, I think we need to do. There’s a lot of logistics involved and I think the president is well suited to be able to figure that out.
Ron DeSantis: (12:08)
But, I think you have a situation where you have Floridians across the state who are sacrificing tremendously. I mean, the schools are closed. You can’t go to a restaurant. You look at South Florida, it’s basically entirely locked down. People don’t have very many outlets throughout the state.
Ron DeSantis: (12:26)
Many people have lost their jobs. Other businesses have had to close. So, these are major sacrifices that the people of Florida are making in order to slow the spread of COVID 19. How is it fair to them to just be airdropping in people from the hot zones bringing infections with them and seeding the communities with new infections that they’re trying to stamp out? So, it’s not fair to the people of Florida to do it. So, I think that the folks in New York city are working incredibly hard. You look at the folks in the hospitals, you look at the folks… the governor and everybody in the agencies. They’re working hard. We’re rooting for their success 100%. But, we also just think it’s bad policy to have people dispersing from there. And, then, seeding other parts of the country, including the state of Florida.
Ron DeSantis: (13:14)
We’re the third biggest state in the country. We’re the number three for international travel in the country, pretty close to New York and California in terms of international travelers. We’ve got some major Metro areas. So, we’ve got a lot of things that we’ve got to be doing in the state of Florida. And, I think it would make it a lot easier if we didn’t have folks coming in from hot zones where they very well may be carrying the virus.
Ron DeSantis: (13:39)
But, since we’ve instituted our policies, you have seen a big decline in the number of people that have come. You’ve seen a decline in the number of flights. And, I think that that’s appropriate for the time being.
Ron DeSantis: (13:50)
I also want to announce that I’m directing the department of economic opportunity to make available an additional hundred million dollars to local governments for infrastructure projects through the Rebuild Florida Program.
Ron DeSantis: (14:03)
The application window for those funds will be this coming week, and these are part of the hurricane Irma block grants. These were money that were allocated to other programs that really didn’t get as much traction. We really believe that given the economic circumstances, putting this into some infrastructure would be good for the economy. Be able to put some people back to work. So, stay tuned on that and we look forward to working with different folks going forward.
Ron DeSantis: (14:29)
Our testing capacity, I mentioned, is increased dramatically. We’re close to 40,000 tests. And, there are obviously thousands that are awaiting results. I think you’ve seen the positive rate of the tests. Probably about, I think, between eight and 10%. pretty consistently most places. Some lower. There’s a couple that are higher. And, so, we’re monitoring that. We’re also monitoring the hospital space throughout the state of Florida.
Ron DeSantis: (14:55)
As many of you know, the whole idea of flattening the curve wasn’t that, necessarily, fewer people would end up getting infected. It’s that you want to shift those infections in a way that’s not going to overwhelm the hospital system all at once. Right now, the bed availability in the state of Florida is 33%. Broward is 39%. In Miami Dade is 36%. And, total I-C-U beds, almost 2100 I-C-U beds. And, almost 400 in Miami Dade and Broward County. But, that’s something that we’re monitoring. I think we’ve seen more space open up over the last two weeks. Part of that is because of actions that I took to help free the space. But, we also are making contingency plans if some of the worst case scenarios come true. And, with that we’ll take a few questions.
Speaker 4: (15:47)
Governor, I have counted 57 flights Delta has scheduled every day to small airports in Florida, Tallahassee, Gainesville, Melbourne. Places. Pensacola, Panama City. What are your plans there about trying to intercept New Yorkers or others?
Ron DeSantis: (15:58)
Well, we have, I mean, we’ve expanded the number of airports. I mean, my folks can get you exactly how many we’re doing. I think we’re doing Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Palm Beach and Southwest Florida, Fort Myers. Some of the smaller airports. Look, what I would say is, I think they really need to help the people of Florida as well. If you’re running one of these airports, I mean, you just need to know where these flights are coming from. And, we’d appreciate you helping to screen.
Ron DeSantis: (16:26)
My view would be, some of these flights I think are hard to justify. But, if you’re going to be boarding flights, I think that that the airlines should make sure that these folks are fine. If they’ve been in close contact with anybody in any of these hot zones, that should be a red flag.
Ron DeSantis: (16:41)
You may not want to allow them on the plane. I mean, just think about it. You’ll have folks here say you can’t go to a state park because you may transmit COVID 19. But, yet, you could have some super spreader on one of these planes sneezing and coughing for two hours and then just get off and that’s fine. And, what about the other passengers? I mean, it’s just absolutely ridiculous that that would be going on.
Ron DeSantis: (17:06)
And, I’d also, if you look at, I mean, New York city, they’re still running their subway system. I mean, New York Post will have things where they’re packed like sardines on there. And, look, it’s their city, they do what they want. But, the fact that matter is some of those people on that subway may end up getting on these flights and coming down. So, they’ve had very close contact with some folks. So, yeah, I, look, I think it’s a problem. But, yeah, I think if they could help us with that, the airports. And, then, working with the airlines, I think it’s in everybody’s interest that we deal with the spread that we have here, now. Try to blunt it. Flatten the curve. But, we don’t allow importing new infections like we may be.
Speaker 5: (17:43)
Do you think, in your discussions with the white house, do you think a domestic air travel ban is off the table? Or, do you think the president would be inclined to consider that?
Ron DeSantis: (17:51)
They have not said that they would do that yet. I don’t know that you would want to totally ban it. I mean, for example, I think you definitely want flights into New York city. Because, people are volunteering. People are helping. And, I think that that’s great. And, I think that there are probably people that are coming in to help in other states.
Ron DeSantis: (18:09)
But, I just think if you have a couple hot zones that are really problematic. And, I think right now New York is probably head and shoulders, just in terms of the rates. I mean, when they’re testing people, it’s a really high rate of infection. Clearly, it’s been circulating. You have the perfect Petri dish with a very urban environment. Public transportation. People always in close contact with one another. That, I think, becomes problematic. So, I just think that they should look at what makes the most sense. If the goal is to flatten the curve and get us in a good direction. Some of those flights, we may be better off at the pause button on.
Speaker 6: (18:47)
[crosstalk 00:18:47] check point on just I 95? Has that been approved?
Ron DeSantis: (18:51)
So, it’s, yeah, it’s been approved. It’s in the process of being set up. And, it will work like the I 10 one. I initially was concerned about doing this because I don’t want there to be a backup. But, they’re doing it in a great way where the trucks are going through. We’re not worried about that. We’re just worried about the people fleeing some of those areas. And, so, then, they’ll have to go through, provide the information, given the instructions about self isolation. And, we do have people that are being followed up with. I mean, that’s just the reality.
Speaker 7: (19:25)
If you start looking at cars though, why just at I 95? [inaudible 00:19:25] over there, or 75.
Ron DeSantis: (19:25)
Well, they may be doing that. Yeah, they may be doing that, too. Yeah, I think you’re looking at, I mean, not that 75 would be an entrance point. But, probably not as much from New York city area. You could do it. But, mostly, I think the 95 is the natural one. And, then, you know, U-S one. Again, you could potentially do that. It would require them to go out of the way a little bit. So, we’ll look at that. But, I think having the 10 and 95 is good. I think that that provides some protection. And, I think most people understand this is an interstate system. We wouldn’t be able to just bar access to Florida. That’s just not something we can do. But, we do have the right to be able to do a checkpoint like this, get the information, provide the requirements about self isolation. And, then, follow up to make sure that they’re doing it or not.
Speaker 8: (20:11)
Governor, considering all your focus on not letting it re-seed, or seed again from all of these hot zones, do you regret not issuing a state order to close the beaches during spring break?
Ron DeSantis: (20:22)
Well, just remember what I did. As soon as the C-D-C guidance came out, we imposed the 25 person limit. So, you couldn’t have more than 10 people in a group. And, that’s why most of these beaches closed. Because, if they complied with my order, I would require manpower. And, if they didn’t want to do the manpower, then their only other option was to close.
Ron DeSantis: (20:39)
And, so, that’s basically what happened. It took a couple of days for them to kind of figure that out. But, that was what it was. And, then, you have some other places where they really put a lot of on maintaining limited access for their residents. That’s safe. And, I think that that’s a good thing. I mean, when you’re talking about a respiratory virus, being in closed places with close contact is the way that it is transmitted.
Ron DeSantis: (21:02)
If you have a family and they’re just sitting out there in sunshine, heat and humidity in an open space, that’s not as big of a problem. And, so, it was more about the residents. And, then, I also had some folks on the local level to say, “Look, we’ll manage this in a way that’s safe. But, if those folks aren’t there, then they’ll probably do more problems in town. And, so, just give us some latitude on that.” And, so, I was responsive to that as well.
Ron DeSantis: (21:26)
But understand, it’s funny how people will talk about, it’s more of a political issue. Do you hear the same people complaining about the New York city subway system being open? I mean, give me a break. Which one is more conducive to having COVID 19 spread or any respiratory virus? I mean, it’s not even close. And, they’re packed in there. And, look, that’s fine. If they need to do that, they got to do it. But, I mean, let’s just be clear like that. That’s more of a political issue than a sensitive one.
Speaker 9: (21:52)
Well, on closed spaces, then. There were two Broward, it’s been reported, two Broward county people have been… coworkers that have tested positive. Do you regret the decision to go forward with the election?
Ron DeSantis: (22:05)
No, the supervisors of election, the state, the secretary of state, they had procedures in place. Everything was… The safety was a priority. They had all the different things. And, they assured me that it was safe. And, I think, it seems like it was safe. And, so, that’s just… But, I think having to cancel it. I think in an environment where people were on edge. I think it would have really sent a signal about a panic. And, I don’t think that’s the signal that you want to send. I think the signal that we want to send is, we’ve got this, there’s going to be challenges. But, if we make the right precautions and do the right things, we’re going to be fine. And, I think that, ultimately, that was the way to go.
Ron DeSantis: (22:48)
We’ve never really canceled elections in situations like that. I mean, we have had during other pandemics and you just make the appropriate… You do the appropriate thing. But, yeah, I think it would’ve been bad to just cut and say, “You can’t do it.”
Ron DeSantis: (23:04)
Especially, you know, they had been voting early for days and everything was going well. People were generally pleased with how it was going. The crowds were kept at a minimum. And, so, I think that that was the right thing to do.
Speaker 10: (23:18)
Governor, you’ve been getting these sampling swabs. And, you’ve been distributing them to thousands of these hot spots. But, several counties haven’t had very many tests. So, what have you been doing to try to increase testing not in hot spots?
Ron DeSantis: (23:32)
So, Jared has distributed, I mean, you’ve distributed swabs to most of the county health departments throughout the state. So, even like in the smaller counties, we have sent swabs to the county health departments. So, they do have some swabs. And, folks have access to be able to do it that way.
Ron DeSantis: (23:50)
Now, there are also some folks, if you have a testing site… So, for example, Jacksonville has a testing site that we helped set up. If you’re in Baker County, I mean, you can go over there as well with some of these drive through sites. So, we have spread it out around. Now, we’ve had to surge it in the areas where you had the most infections. Just because we need to get a handle on how many people are infected. And, then, we also need to be able to have a baseline to try to figure out how this infection is moving through these communities.
Ron DeSantis: (24:24)
And, I think that that, obviously, that would have been a no brainer. I mean, if we had not done that, then we would be in… kind of in the dark about how this is affecting some of our major metro areas. And, I think that if you look at what Dr. Burks and other folks at the white house have pointed out, this is not something that affects the country uniformly. And, it’s just like it hasn’t affected Florida uniformly. That’s one of the reasons I’ve had a tailored approach where you have South Florida that’s basically shut down. You have various forms throughout the state. But, it’s corresponding to how to combat the spread of the virus. And, I think is sensible under those. But, they’re going to be moving towards an approach that is going to look really at the major metro areas.
Ron DeSantis: (25:07)
Some of those counties they’re going to be assigning scores. Is it high risk, medium risk, low risk? And, I think if you look at Florida, we have a lot of counties that would be considered low risk. Southeast Florida is kind of where we’re seeing the most problems. And, so, we’ve devoted the most resources there. So, that would be a higher risk. And, then, I think some of the other counties are maybe somewhere in between. But, they’re working on those guidelines. I know the president, I spoke with him. And, hopefully that’s going to come out sometime in the next couple of days.
Speaker 11: (25:40)
One last question.
Speaker 12: (25:44)
[inaudible 00:25:44] were at the villages, a number of people from Sun city reached out and said, what about us? Do you have plans to test there as well?
Ron DeSantis: (25:51)
I would support, if, you know, we worked this through the University of Florida and Shan’s. If the University of South Florida Medical School or somebody there, one of the hospitals there, was interested in supporting something in Sun City center, we could probably provide some assistance to that. And, I think that that would be something that we’d look into. So, they should just contact us. And, we’ll figure it out. All right. Thanks, guys.
Speaker 11: (26:17)
Thank you, everyone.