Apr 13, 2020

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 13

Governor Ron DeSantis Coronavirus Briefing April 13
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 13

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ full press conference from April 13 on COVID-19. Read the transcript with all of the governor’s updates here.


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Ron DeSantis: (01:07)
Good afternoon. Since the beginning of the Covid-19 fight, Florida has worked very hard at protecting our seniors, expanding testing, and supporting our hospital workers and hospital system. Particularly with respect to seniors. We focused very critically on nursing homes and longterm care facilities. Early in March I directed Jared Moscowitz to implement strict screening measures at all longterm care facilities. We had a few dozen cases in Florida in the entire state at the time and at a minimum all these facilities have had to adhere to very strict screening requirements. That includes any person’s showing or presenting signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection including cough, fever, shortness of breath was prohibited from entering a facility. Any person who may have been in close contact with anyone infected with Covid-19 was prohibited from entering the facility. Any person who traveled internationally, prohibited from entering a facility until 14 days after their return to the United States.

Ron DeSantis: (02:16)
Any person who traveled on a cruise ship, prohibited from entering a facility until 14 days after their return to the United States. Anybody who has been in a community with confirmed community spread of Covid-19 is prohibited from entering a facility within 14 days of their presence in the community with community spread. And any person who resides in a community with confirmed community spread as identified by the CDC is prohibited. So that was from the very beginning because we understood that Covid-19 presented significant risks to people who were elderly and with people who had underlying conditions. Right after that, I directed director Moscowitz to prohibit visitation from all facilities. We couldn’t be sure who was going in. It was a tough thing to do because a lot of the residents like to have visitors, but we felt it was the right thing to do for safety.

Ron DeSantis: (03:06)
We had about 125 cases at the time. We were one of the first states to do it and acted earlier than many of the other states, such as New York and California in terms of their caseload. And so basically you were in a situation where you had the staff that would have access and workers and then obviously the residents. Throughout the whole time period, we messaged and advised all seniors regardless of whether they’re in a longterm care facility or not, anyone who was 65 and plus or with underlying health conditions to stay home as much as possible and to avoid crowds. We also did a formal public health advisory to that effect in March because ultimately, if you look at the way this affects different groups, there’s a disproportionate impact on that community. So we wanted to do all we could do to make them safe. But beyond screening and suspending visitation, our approach to protecting seniors and residents in longterm care facilities falls into three main areas.

Ron DeSantis: (04:04)
First, we continue to conduct longterm care facility assessments. So the Florida Department of Health has developed 120 ambulance assessment teams to deploy preemptive measures to prevent the introduction of Covid-19 in the states longterm care facilities. These teams completed assessments at almost 4,000 longterm care facilities to determine immediate unmet needs and to promote appropriate infection control practices. These assessment teams worked in conjunction with county health departments to address needs and identify facilities where opportunities for improvement existed. The agency for healthcare administration is also in constant contact with facilities throughout the state to make sure we understand and can respond to their needs. OCA staff has made over 1000 in person visits and made over 5,000 phone calls to these facilities. Second, the department of health immediately sends rapid emergency support teams to facilities who have residents that have tested positive for Covid-19 the department’s rapid emergency support teams or RES teams operate as the incident command structure for Florida’s longterm care facility response.

Ron DeSantis: (05:16)
These teams ensure the residents of the longterm care facility are in a safe and secure environment to prevent the further spread of Covid-19. RES teams remain on scene to provide support while staff members are appropriately trained to provide clinical care for Covid-19 patients. This model has been identified by the Center for Disease Control as a best practice for other states to follow. The department’s RES strike team includes an infection preventionist, local county health department staff, regional staff from the agency for healthcare administration, nursing staff, a Florida infectious disease transportation network team, and an advanced life support ambulance. These RES teams have responded to 93 longterm care facilities with Covid-19 positive patients. The third component is testing. While we’ve been early and aggressive by implementing screening protocols and prohibiting visitation, testing remains an effective tool to identify an outbreak early and to mitigate any spreading of the virus.

Ron DeSantis: (06:20)
I’ve previously directed the department of health to conduct sentinel surveillance in longterm care facilities where residents and staff of the facilities are voluntarily tested for Covid-19 even if they do not have any symptoms. To accomplish this directive, the department of health successfully trained 30 paramedics to perform specimen collection and use 12 advanced life support ambulances to randomly collect samples from longterm care facilities throughout the state. But today we are raising the bar even further. I am directing the Florida national guard to create more strike teams to significantly ramp up testing in longterm care facilities. They have already visited and tested, I believe hundreds of residents in South Florida with the National Guard strike teams. We are going to expand that to have 10 teams of four and we’ll probably expand it beyond there as long as we have enough equipment and PPE and they will begin their mission in the counties that are being most affected by Covid-19, so primarily in Southeast Florida.

Ron DeSantis: (07:26)
They’ll be taking samples from all willing individuals in each facility, both staff and residents. It’s critical to identify people who test positive as early as possible and this will help us do that. One of the things that we’ve learned is you can have someone come in and the staff, you can do a temperature check, you can check for symptoms, but people do carry this virus without a fever, without being symptomatic. And so you need to have a strike team going in and aggressively testing to try to preempt that. And what we found in a lot of these longterm facilities is the spread is more significant amongst the staff, but it’s not that they weren’t following the protocols, in some cases they were, it’s just somebody didn’t show symptoms. And so doing strike teams I think will be good for the residents, but I also think it’ll be good to identify this with staff so that the appropriate staff can be isolated and we can prevent an outbreak among staff at nursing home and longterm care facilities.

Ron DeSantis: (08:22)
So this is an important additional protection an additional step. And I want to thank the Florida national guard for responding very quickly when we asked them to do it. Further thing on testing, we’ve helped set up and run the state of Florida, the Florida National Guard, a number of drive through testing sites throughout the state. One of the ones we did very early on was in conjunction with Memorial Healthcare in Broward County. So far this has been in operation for between three and four weeks I think. And they’ve conducted over 11,000 tests just in that one place. They’re actually having people from the National Guard throughout the country come by, look at the site, try to figure out what they’re doing right, and it’s really become a model for people nationwide. In fact, they had a four star general, Joseph Langle recently visited the site and said it was one of the most successful sites in the country.

Ron DeSantis: (09:21)
And I think that they’ve gotten their wait time down to, I believe, under 30 minutes. I think Scott, I think under 30 minutes. And so they’ve really running an efficient operation and that’s been a big help to the people of Broward County. So we really appreciate everyone who’s doing that. Of course, we have other sites throughout the state and the National Guard has been tremendous in all their support. So some updates on where we are as a state in terms of the state of Florida. You look at the case rates per 1000 population, it looks like we’re a little bit behind Texas and California. Now of course we have tested more per capita than both Texas and California. But that just gives you a sense of where we are vis-a-vis the rest of the country on positive test results, positive cases of Covid-19 in the state of Florida.

Ron DeSantis: (10:15)
The death rates in the state of Florida per 1,000, 100,000 in population. Again, Texas, California, Florida, then you have some of the other states that are fighting pretty significant outbreaks. Obviously in New York you see very, very significant death rates per 100,000. Here’s the cases for the last 30 days. So if you go back in the middle of March, obviously you were seeing a trickle of cases. Now, part of that was there wasn’t as widespread testing. As we get into the third or fourth week of March, the testing starts to ramp up. And so really I would say from maybe that last week of March on, that’s a pretty good baseline to look at.

Ron DeSantis: (10:56)
So you see the trend. I think the 2nd of April was the highest and then it’s been in a little bit of a plateau since then. So obviously we’re going to watch that every day. The number of tests that are conducted have been a good clip. When these tests are done, obviously we have our health labs that do some, most of the tests are being done by private labs. Sometimes those negative results come in late. We wish we could get them turned around quicker. So some of this may be a lag from when they actually tested. All right. Let’s see, there. Can we go to the next one? Oh, testing. Okay, so you see how the testing is ramped up at the beginning of the month? They were harder to come by, we were sending them to Atlanta CDC. They eventually had state labs certified to do it so we were doing it in three state labs, but in a state of 21.5 million people just have three labs that can run through a hundred or 200 test results a day was totally inadequate.

Ron DeSantis: (12:02)
So hospitals ramped up their labs, the private labs, and we’ve had contracts with them. They’ve done a lot. So you’ve seen how the testing has really increased a lot, particularly over the last three weeks. Sometimes the up and down a little bit is more just about when you’re getting results I think to see you go down and back up and down and back up. The trend has been more testing and we want to continue to do that. You look at the deaths by age in the state of Florida. Obviously most of the fatalities are 65 and plus. We do not have any under 25, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. I know people like to try to twist things. Of course it can happen, but clearly there’s a higher risk for people as they get into older age groups. And then here’s the death rate per 100,000 by age. So obviously once you start getting into that 75, 85, becomes a…

Ron DeSantis: (13:03)
… where getting into that 75, 85 becomes a much different situation in people in the younger age groups. A final update on just the hospitalizations. I think if you look throughout the state, it’s been pretty flat over the last seven days. In the last eight hours, there’s been a net reduction of 27 people hospitalized in the state of Florida. If you look at the hospitalizations, Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach, they represent about 30% of the state’s population, they account for almost 65% of the hospitalizations statewide. If you look at places like Hillsborough, 59 people hospitalized, Orange, 95, and Duval, 61. Those have been flat or even declining, which is a good sign. Then Southeast Florida, obviously, has more.

Ron DeSantis: (13:55)
One thing with the testing too. If you look at the test per person in Florida, that is obviously important, but what I did is I actually looked at test per person in Southeast Florida because that’s where the biggest outbreak is. You’ve got about 6.5 million people in those three South Florida counties, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and if you look at the number of tests we’ve done, it ends up being about one test for every 85 residents of those three Southeastern Florida Counties. That’s a really strong ratio.

Ron DeSantis: (14:28)
I always reference South Korea was viewed as the gold standard of testing because they tested one in every 200 South Koreans, well here in Southeast Florida that ratio has been strong. Part of that is because our efforts with Memorial Healthcare, some of the other drive-in sites. We have two drive-in sites we’re supporting in Palm Beach County. We have the Memorial site in Broward and then we’re supporting two, at least two, actually more than two in Miami-Dade County. We provided some supplies for some other sites as well. So, the testing has been aggressive in Southeast Florida and we’re obviously going to continue to do that.

Ron DeSantis: (15:03)
In terms of available bed space statewide, we’re looking at 42.5% of the licensed beds are available right now. I think I’ve cited at the beginning of March, a lot of the vacancies were about 12% statewide. Most of the beds were 85%, 90%, 91% filled in various markets throughout the state of Florida. When you’re talking about flattening the curve, the number one reason to do that was to make sure you had enough hospital capacity to be able to handle patients who would get infected and would need hospitalization.

Ron DeSantis: (15:36)
We’ve worked very hard to make sure that our hospital system would hold up over this period. Right now, the hospitalizations are basically flat. That’s a good sign, but we look at it one hour at a time, one day at a time, and just keep trying to do the right thing. I want to thank the folks we have here with us today. I’m going to have Secretary Mayhew, Jared Moscowitz and we’re going to have Surgeon General and Secretary Mayhew, they’re all just going to make a couple of comments, give an update on where we’re at, and then we’ll be happy to take some questions. Why don’t we start with the Surgeon General, go to Jared and then go to Mary.

Scott A. Rivkees: (16:12)
All right. Thank you, Governor. First, our thoughts with all the families and individuals who have COVID-19, especially those who have lost loved ones to this virus. As the Governor mentioned, we’ve had a five-point plan in the fight against COVID-19. First, social distancing. How do we reduce our risk for getting this virus? Testing expansion and contact tracing, this is a way we can stop person-to-person transmission. How are we protecting the elderly and the vulnerable members of our society? As we’ve heard, this virus is particularly harsh on the elderly. Preparing hospitals for the surge and protecting our healthcare workers and also how do we stop the introduction of this virus into our state, also, most importantly, the introduction of this into nursing homes and other facilities?

Scott A. Rivkees: (17:03)
Where are we? As the Governor mentioned, we are essentially at a plateau with a slight increase in number of cases over the past week. The percent positive in individuals testing positive for COVID-19 really for the past 10 days has been remained stable at about 11%. As the Governor mentioned, the number of individuals in the hospitals have remained stable over the past week with about 2000 hospitalizations per day and same for individuals in the intensive care units. We’ve been stable at about 800 individuals over the course of the state, 650 individuals on ventilators in intensive care units.

Scott A. Rivkees: (17:47)
This virus, again, is particularly harsh on the elderly. The elderly account for about 30% of hospitalizations, but about 60% of deaths. We are continuing to follow the trends very carefully. We are, as always, we are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. We need to continue to focus on the measures which can protect us all against COVID-19.

Scott A. Rivkees: (18:12)
Again, wish to emphasize the importance of avoiding crowds, six-foot spacing. If we are going to be in gatherings, it should be less than 10 individuals. We should all consider wearing a mask in public in the event that some of us are asymptomatic spreaders. Certainly do not work when we are sick. Again, for the elderly, these individuals need to avoid going out in public and certainly avoid contact with individuals who are ill. We are at a plateau situation but cannot emphasize enough that we can not let our guard down at this present time. Until we get a vaccine, which is a while off, this is going to be our new normal and we need to adapt and protect ourselves. Thank you.

Ron DeSantis: (18:56)
Great. Director Moscowitz.

Jared Moskowitz: (18:58)
Governor, thank you. This disaster, obviously, has been unique and in fact, it’s the first time in U.S. history that all 50 states are under a disaster declaration simultaneously at the same time. Obviously we’re not just competing against the 50 states, we’re competing against every country but Antarctica for that lifesaving PPE. Thankfully, we’ve been able to turn the corner in a lot of ways.

Jared Moskowitz: (19:25)
To date, the division has sent out 6 million masks, 5 million gloves, 564,000 shoe covers, 515,000 face shields, 286,000 gowns, 77,000 containers of hand sanitizer, 47,000 goggles and 22,000 Tyvek suits and so we have millions of pieces of PPE on order that is now starting to come in and we’re going to continue to ramp up that operation all through the remainder of April continuing into May because PPE is going to continue to be that thing that we talk about for months to come.

Jared Moskowitz: (20:02)
The division is still moving forward under the Governor’s direction to make sure that we have all those temporary facilities that we were working on, even though it looks like bed capacity, ventilator capacity, ICU capacity has trended in a much better direction for the state. We are still moving forward to have those facilities open, the convention center on the 20th of April and the field hospitals in both Dade County and Broward County are already open and so obviously we have those staffed at a minimal capacity but have contracts in place that if we had to increase staffing we could do that. We’ll be looking more at surging staff into hospitals under their current surge plans. We’re already working with a couple of hospitals now where we’ve given them some additional staff to meet their current load.

Jared Moskowitz: (20:50)
We continue to follow the models that are out there. Here in Florida, we’re very used to watching modeling similar to a hurricane track that changes. The IHME model has changed on Florida three times already. First our peak was May 4th, then it was going to be the 21st of April, now it’s the 26th of April and so we continue to watch that model as new data is gathered and we’ll continue to prepare accordingly.

Jared Moskowitz: (21:16)
We are looking forward to, under the Governor’s direction, increasing testing in multiple areas. As we’ve alluded to, we’re third in the country at testing and we’re looking to try to do that in some more disadvantaged communities going forward. As the Surgeon General said, we’re going to continue to stay the course, the 30 days to stop the spread, obviously, it goes until April 30th and so those mitigation measures are working, the social distance measures are working and so the Division of Emergency Management, we just want everyone to understand that now’s not the time to change our behavior. Governor, thank you.

Ron DeSantis: (21:54)

Mary Mayhew: (21:54)
Thank you, Governor. I think it is interesting as we look at the four individuals here, what is often not appreciated are the hundreds and hundreds of individuals that comprise these multi-agency teams that have been working tirelessly under the Governor’s leadership, Director Moscowitz and the Surgeon General to support this multi-pronged effort. I’m going to speak to a part of that, but I think it’s important to continue to underscore this is all been done as a multi-agency team response, well-coordinated, well-deployed.

Mary Mayhew: (22:34)
What I am so grateful for are the thousands of caregivers and nurses and direct care staff and physicians who have been on the front lines now for many weeks serving their patients and their residents, caring for their colleagues and supporting their communities. Around the state, hospitals have been pulling together regionally, sharing data, working collaboratively to develop an assessment of their region’s capacity to respond to the worst possible peak. As director Moscowitz said, we’ve seen multiple models and scenarios and what I have been truly impressed by and grateful for has been the role of our hospitals in truly developing an assessment of their capacity, evaluating every bed, understanding how quickly they could bring staff on and what is the true capacity, so that what the state’s response is is complimentary of how the region is prepared to respond and care for any surge.

Mary Mayhew: (23:55)
We have been well-served in Florida because of the Emergency Status System that has been in place now for several years, where hospital hospitals have been very disciplined in submitting their data to us so we know exactly what the occupancy is and have been able to track and trend that information. On the long-term care side, again, we’ve had so many calls over the many weeks supporting our skilled nursing facilities, our assisted living facilities, our intermediate care facilities with both the directives to shut down to visitors, the guidance, I think, we have said this from the beginning, not only have we had, and the Governor has had, laser-beam focus on protecting our elderly, but we have acknowledged the high level of infection prevention that has been called for that is often beyond the PPE supplies that these facilities traditionally have. The state has worked collaboratively with these facilities, with the associations to get those facilities prioritized for masks, for gowns to support them. Then we have worked with our skilled nursing facilities, our assisted living facilities on all the guidance to support their staff. But again, let’s put a human face on this. We’re talking about frail, elderly individuals or individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities whose lives have been disrupted by this, who have been cut off from family and friends, and our facilities have bent over backwards to support creative ways to support that connection. I’ve seen photos of staff doing line dances down the hall, six feet apart, to keep their residents spirits uplifted.

Mary Mayhew: (25:54)
We have worked to support not only the clinical guidance, the adherence to infection prevention control, but to-

Speaker 2: (26:03)
… guidance, the adherence to infection prevention control, but to support the wellbeing and the mental health of so many of our residents, our patients, and the staff. As the governor mentioned, we have had well over 1,000 visits just from the Agency For Healthcare Administration, but when added to our partnership with the county health departments, EMS, we’ve had well over 4,000 visits. And we’ve had well over 5,000 calls to those facilities to talk through and work through a checklist related to infection prevention and control to make sure that we are a constant source of assistance and information.

Speaker 2: (26:44)
And then we have deployed teams who have been onsite day and night, clinical staff supporting any facility that has needed that additional assistance. So I’m incredibly pleased at where we are. We know that we must continue to be vigilant in our efforts to bend this curve and to support our most vulnerable populations. Thank you.

Ron DeSantis: (27:12)
We were talking about… I know you’re keep in close contact with all the folks in the various hospitals. What’s their attitude now? Where was that maybe like a month ago? Because I think that was instructive.

Speaker 2: (27:24)
Thank you governor, and it is true from where we began with this and the work that the hospitals were doing. I’ve had the chance to speak almost daily with all the hospitals and then more specifically to conduct regional calls with hospital executive leadership and there is a level of confidence as they look at the data, their trends, and their preparedness. They are certainly not seeing the rate of increase, but they are confident in the level of preparedness that they have and believe that they are ready to address any surge that comes their way within the hospital. They are not seeing or they do not have a level of concern that this is going to be well beyond the hospitals or health systems’ ability to manage effectively.

Speaker 2: (28:13)
Which by the way governor is why I’ve also really stressed with our hospitals the importance of their regional assistance to skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities. It is our hospitals that have the infection prevention staff that can help to support some of the regional needs of these other smaller facilities to better manage and support those organizations.

Ron DeSantis: (28:38)
Great. And then Jared, can you just give an update on the latest in the supply chain? We’re going to have a good announcement tomorrow about some more of the masks, which I think is exciting and we’ve been working closely with the White House on that. But where are we on just… I mean, I know there’s been a crash. Where is it loosening up and where’s it still tight?

Jared: (28:59)
Yeah, governor, we’ve seen a change in the marketplace over the last week and a half, two weeks with your leadership talking about some of the problems, getting those out there in the open, obviously the White House weighing in and fixing a lot of that. And so we’ve seen a lot of stuff readily available. So gloves, shoe covers, face shields, which is a one off. So that’s not something that has a daily burn rate. So you give out a face shield, that person has the face shield. Gowns seem to be a significantly higher burn rate. We’re seeing gowns and there’s no standardized procedure, so some hospitals are throwing away gowns after one wear or after one day. And so burn rates are different depending upon whatever protocols that hospital feels comfortable with.

Jared: (29:45)
The same thing with goggles. We give out a goggle, it’s something that can be cleaned. It’s not something that has a daily burn rate. So we’re doing much better than we were a couple of weeks ago when we told everybody what was going on in the vendor marketplace. So vendors are delivering, we’re getting regular deliveries now. Millions of this stuff is coming in on a weekly basis and it’s going out as fast as it can come in. N95 masks, we’re even starting to see some change in that area a little slower than some of these other categories. But we’re using those to focus for our folks on the frontline. So we’re using the N95 mask where it’s needed, people who are surrounded by other people with COVID-19.

Ron DeSantis: (30:25)
Great. Mike.

Mike: (30:26)
Now governor, this maybe for you or Dr. [inaudible 00:30:29] and it comes from [inaudible 00:30:30] concerned that you’re not releasing the county by county data on how many tests are occurring in longterm care facilities and it seems that you are naming some facilities but not others. What would you tell [inaudible 00:30:44]?

Ron DeSantis: (30:44)
Well, I’ll let the surgeon general pint on that. I mean, I would just say generally, Florida’s data on the website, there’s more data put out daily basis by Florida’s Department of Health than anywhere, people have commented to me across the country how good it is. So I appreciate what they’re doing and I’ll let the surgeon general address that specific question.

Speaker 3: (31:04)
Yeah, thanks for your question. So within our Department of Health website, we have lots of information about county by county level in terms of zip code. And that includes the roll up of the total individuals within that county who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

Mike: (31:19)
[crosstalk 00:31:19] focused on keeping all of these things. Why not be more specific about the specific facilities at least within a county?

Speaker 3: (31:29)
So again, first within each facility, there’re infection control measures which we have in place. We have teams which are going in there, working with the hospitals, making sure they’re doing all the proper procedures, making sure that we can support them the best we can. And so like any other individual in the community that loses their life to COVID-19, these are included in the roll ups at the county level.

Mike: (31:54)
Well, why can’t you say however, which facilities have positive cases [inaudible 00:32:00]?

Speaker 3: (32:03)
Family members are. So again, so if an individual has COVID-19 in a nursing home or a facility, we have contact tracing which is in place to make sure that the other individuals who’ve been in contact with that person are identified. And if they need to isolate, they’re doing that. Same with staff members. So this is a situation where individuals are notified in terms of other family members, if there is an individual with COVID-19 in that facility.

Mike: (32:33)
There still seems to be some confusion as how you are determining which [inaudible 00:32:40]. I’m wondering if you can explain how you have [inaudible 00:32:46] whether or not [inaudible 00:32:49] outside of the state [inaudible 00:32:50] and whether or not [inaudible 00:32:51] who died [inaudible 00:32:54].

Speaker 3: (32:57)
So we have two ways that we actually track both hospitalizations and loss of life. One is we get information from the hospitals through the ESS system, which the secretary mentioned, and also within the Department of Health, if an individual is found to have COVID-19, this is a different process in place where we’ll contact that individual. So slightly different ways how we collect the information, but they really are very close to each other.

Ron DeSantis: (33:26)
And I think in terms of the fatalities, I think [inaudible 00:33:33] passes away with COVID is counted. So there’s not like a causal determination to say, “Oh well, you had COVID, but you really died from some other thing.” Anyone who has it is considered a COVID death. Correct?

Speaker 3: (33:45)
Exactly. And to your question about the states, the way CDC has it, if somebody is a resident of a different state as in Florida and passes away in Florida, the CDC will actually count that death in the roll up for the individual where their state of residence.

Mike: (34:05)
[inaudible 00:34:05]-

Ron DeSantis: (34:06)
Hold on, let’s give someone else a chance. Anyone else over here?

Speaker 4: (34:09)
Talk if you could about the expansion of testing [inaudible 00:34:12] contact with a possible testing [inaudible 00:34:20] strategy here who basically get the [inaudible 00:34:24].

Ron DeSantis: (34:26)
I think its good for health, I think it’s good for economy, all that stuff. So the three federal sites that expired on Friday, we came in and said we want to keep them going. Jacksonville, Orlando, and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. And the thing was they had limited, the feds limited 250 people a day through those sites. But we know we have capacity to do more. So we source the swabs, we have contracts with the private labs and we talked to all the communities and they were all very supportive of saying, yes, if you’re 65 and up with symptoms, I mean, you are the number one people we need to help just given the statistics. But if anyone has coronavirus symptoms, we want them to go and get tested.

Ron DeSantis: (35:08)
And so now you’re expanding it to anybody with symptoms. When we started this, the CDC made it sound like it was just anyone from Asia was really where it was. So were you in China? Did you have contact with someone in China? Now we saw in Florida pretty soon the cases were coming were from Egypt, the Dominican… I mean, really all over the place. So expanding that’s important. So on those sites, if you’re a first responder, healthcare worker or you have coronavirus symptoms, regardless of age, you can go through drive through. But if you’re somebody with no symptoms at all, but you’ve had close repeated contact with somebody who is positive for COVID-19, we’re providing an ability to get tested precisely for the reason that we don’t know how many people are asymptomatic with it and we don’t know what percentage of the spreaders are asymptomatic. So this will really help us identify that. And then obviously if someone’s asymptomatic but they’re positive, we would want them to be self-isolated to prevent future more spread. We also, we’ve ordered this FDA approved antibody test. We’re trying to get it shipped as quickly as possible. There’s a lot going on there, particularly where it’s made and everything, but the antibody tests would also help us on the back end identify, okay, how much has this really spread throughout the communities? And there’ve been different countries that have done different things. Stanford University is now doing one, I think they’re going to come out with the results this week. I think we have between 500 and 600,000 positive cases in the United States right now total, probably closer to 600,000 because they’re going up.

Ron DeSantis: (36:46)
But clearly, that’s not the end result of everyone who’s been infected with it. How many more is it, twice as much, three times, five times? That antibody test will really give us an ability to identify that, which again, I think is helpful for knowing where we are now and then going forward. But I would say, we showed the test figures go up, once we started to hit a certain level of tests, we were in good shape to really spot these trends. You go from like March 1st to March 20th, well, a lot of that was just, there wasn’t as much testing than there was. Well, now that there’s consistent testing, you can really see the trends in different parts of the state. And if you’ll look in like Duval County, there’re a million people there, it’s about 5% test positive and 95% test negative.

Ron DeSantis: (37:35)
You’re in Miami-Dade County, they’re not quite 20%, they had been pushing that, but they’re pretty consistently about 18%. Some of these places like Michigan and Boston, they’re 35%, New York, 35, 40% of people that get tested test positive. So that gives you I think a good baseline to be able to think about, okay, how strongly is this spreading in different parts of the state? What parts of the state have it to where it’s not as rampant as there are in other parts of the country or even other parts of our state? And then you can go forward. I mean, I think that the data has just been very, very clear for us that you have Southeast Florida and then the rest of the state, not that it’s uniform in the rest of the state, but it’s definitely impacted those communities differently than Southeast Florida. I think they have 60% of the cases, at least 60% of the hospitalizations just in those three counties.

Ron DeSantis: (38:29)
And yeah, they are big counties, but it’s 30% of our state’s population, but 60% of the cases and over 60% of the hospitalizations. Yes, sir.

Speaker 5: (38:38)
[crosstalk 00:38:38] question over whether you were [inaudible 00:38:41] stay in hotels and motels. [inaudible 00:38:46] a couple of people were removed from a hotel and they’re saying that the executive order covers them. So I didn’t know [crosstalk 00:38:52]-

Ron DeSantis: (38:53)
That’s something I’m going to have to confer with… well, that’s a good question. I mean, when I was doing that, I wasn’t necessarily thinking of that. I was thinking more in terms of people paying rent. So let me look at that. I don’t want to say yes, it does and then-

Ron DeSantis: (39:03)
Paying rent, so let me look at that. I don’t want to say, “Yes, it does.” And then, it turns out… I just got to review it again. Yes, sir?

Speaker 6: (39:07)
[crosstalk 00:39:07] Unemployment system, when will they-

Ron DeSantis: (39:10)
Which system?

Speaker 6: (39:11)
The unemployment system.

Ron DeSantis: (39:12)

Speaker 6: (39:16)
When will the state get the money from the CARES Act, the $600 a week?

Ron DeSantis: (39:18)
So I would need to talk to DEO about when exactly. It’s not supposed to be far out. We may have some, if not, we’re going to get some. I think we do have some now, or just got at the end of the week. And so these claims are being processed. We’ve had, oh man, I would say, submitted claims, you’re talking about hundreds of thousands. We’ve already exceeded, just in the last three weeks, the claims submitted than we had all of 2019. Because I think we had about 300,000, 350,000 throughout all of 219. So now you’re able to submit, we have the [Pega 00:39:59] website people can go. That’s being migrated over into the Connect. You’ve got to check the social security number. You’ve got to do the verification, and then that will green light us to whatever federal money we can have, we can send out. And then obviously, on the state side. So I’ve asked them to expedite that as much as possible.

Ron DeSantis: (40:17)
We’ve expedited, or we’ve expanded, the call center so that the… Granted, yesterday was Easter Sunday, but I got the report this morning. The wait time was much less than it had been at the start of this. And so I told them just keep beefing it up as you need it because I think it really helps if people just have a human being that they can talk to and get. And a lot of these folks have never applied for unemployment before. They’ve just, basically, been working, and you have this. So we want to do that there as well. But I’ve told them, work it really, really quickly and try to do it. But there is some verification that goes into it.

Speaker 10: (40:49)
[crosstalk 00:40:49] One last question.

Speaker 7: (40:51)
Regular unemployment has actually went out already?

Ron DeSantis: (40:54)
Yeah, there have been some that have gone out, yeah. I don’t want to give you a number. I reviewed them this morning, but there have been claims paid. And they are escalating in terms of the claims, though, that have been paid. So we want to-

Speaker 7: (41:07)
Because they’re probably not being asked that question, whether or not there have been and how many. And how much money has been dispersed.

Ron DeSantis: (41:15)
Well, I’ve told the department that we all want more answers more quickly. So trust me, we want to get that. But yeah, I had the write-up this morning. I don’t want to quote a figure and then be wrong, but there have been claims paid. And there’s a lot in the hopper right now. And people are working hard, and as you know, we’ve got a lot of hands on deck for this at this point. And that will, I think, really help us a lot. I’ve got to go run and get on a couple calls, but we have these folks who are going to be here if you guys have additional questions for any of the agency heads.

Speaker 8: (41:46)
Dr. Rivkees, you mentioned [inaudible 00:41:50], but you mentioned about 600 folks currently on ventilators. Do you know how many more will become available and if their usage is also a platform?

Dr. Rivkees: (42:00)
Thank you. AHCA sends through the ESS system. We collect reports on the numbers of ventilators that are available in the state at the present time. And I believe about 7,000 ventilators are available.

Speaker 8: (42:13)
And do we also, you said [inaudible 00:42:16] as the cases are.

Dr. Rivkees: (42:19)
Yeah, thank you. That’s an important question. We have been stable for the past week.

Speaker 8: (42:24)
[inaudible 00:03:26], we’re seeing spikes in some rural communities. I know Jackson County’s seen spikes. Suwannee, which has a hospital. Same thing with Bradford. What are those plans for being [inaudible 00:42:42] to handle? These experiencing that they’re giving, as we’ve seen [inaudible 00:42:47] that people were getting sick there [inaudible 00:42:50].

Dr. Rivkees: (42:52)
Yeah, yeah. First, there’s a lot of regional coordination, so right when this hit our radar screen, we had hospitals talk about making regional affiliations, make sure they’d be able to rely on sister hospitals. So we have that system in place. So if a hospital doesn’t have capabilities, they can be transferred to another hospital in their region.

Speaker 8: (43:20)
So if I get sick in Live Oak, I would go to [inaudible 00:43:19].

Dr. Rivkees: (43:21)
Well, they actually, Live Oak, the hospitals there are caring for patients with Covid-19, but if the capabilities are beyond what they can deal with, then they will work with other hospitals.

Speaker 9: (43:34)
Sir, you mentioned something that was important. You said, “Until we have a vaccine, this is the new normal.” What do you mean by, this is the new normal? This kind of shut down right now? What are you talking about?

Dr. Rivkees: (43:47)
So when we have a vaccine against this, we’ll be able to stop the spread of Covid individual from Covid from person to person. We don’t have a vaccine at the present time, so our mitigation measure is the social distancing, six feet away from each other. I see some of you here wearing masks. Have gatherings less than 10. I see some of the measures that are happening in stores. They have plexiglass sneeze shields. They are limiting individuals going into their establishments. So as long as we are going to have Covid in the environment, and this is a tough virus, we’re going to have to practice these measures so that we are all protected.

Speaker 9: (44:33)
We won’t see a vaccine, it could be [inaudible 00:44:34] the time frame a little bit right now?

Dr. Rivkees: (44:35)
Yeah, based upon on what has been reported, probably a year, if not longer, is what some individuals have talked about.

Speaker 10: (44:45)
[crosstalk 00:44:45] Are there any questions for Secretary Mayhew? I know she’s got to run. Secretary. Is there any questions for Secretary?

Speaker 7: (44:50)
I have one for her.

Speaker 10: (44:51)
Okay, go ahead.

Secretary Mayhew: (44:53)
I was fine, as it was going.

Speaker 7: (44:55)
Sorry to keep you here. I have one question. It has to do with, we saw today that Leon County now has the fourth highest number of rise in support staff in a long-term care facility after Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm beach. Then we’ve got Leon. They’ve even got even smaller, [inaudible 00:45:15] County and Suwannee County. What do you tell us that accounts for these large increases in the smaller areas? We understand big urban communities are going to have more numbers, but Leon, Suwannee. Is this some where it’s going from staff to staff? Is it something that’s happened circulating throughout the community? What’s the cause of this?

Secretary Mayhew: (45:42)
Well, and it will pertain to art to see cases are the facilities like assisted living or [inaudible 00:45:57] facility. And we are dealing with [inaudible 00:46:01] staff who may be working multiple jobs because they need to feed their families. There will be a more aggressive effort to broadly test why you may be seeing some of the numbers. And then we’re also assessing that against, what is the capacity in that area? And certainly in a rural [inaudible 00:46:26], the health system to respond. But we are deploying strike teams into those [inaudible 00:46:38] challenges that may exist when you have higher numbers of staff that are testing positive, because we’ve got to be working regionally, especially in rural areas to respond, to be working with the hospitals and other organizations.

Speaker 7: (46:56)
I think we’ve speculated and more [inaudible 00:47:00] most of those are related to the Tallahassee Developmental Center.

Secretary Mayhew: (47:01)
There have been efforts here-

Speaker 7: (47:02)
Sorry, ma’am. Is it possible if you could turn the volume up on that?

Secretary Mayhew: (47:09)
So there have been efforts here, sorry about that, to again, to respond quickly. There are some facilities that have a higher number of staff, and we are trying to focus as a region on that response. And again, with strike teams and staffing plans.

Speaker 7: (47:32)
That makes it sound like you’re doing more aggressive testing in these facilities? Is that what these strike teams are for?

Secretary Mayhew: (47:37)
We are absolutely doing more aggressive testing, especially with residents and staff-

Bobby: (47:43)
How many people do you expect to test through these new strike teams?

Secretary Mayhew: (47:49)
I didn’t hear the question,

Bobby: (47:51)
About how many people, in addition, do you expect to test to these new testing strike teams the governor mentioned?

Secretary Mayhew: (48:00)
That, I can’t speak to. That is a Department of Health plan.

Speaker 11: (48:06)
We’ll be glad if you just send us that question, Bobby, we’ll be glad to answer that question for you.

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