Aug 10, 2021

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Surfside Press Conference Transcript August 10

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Surfside Press Conference Transcript August 10
RevBlogTranscriptsFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis TranscriptsFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis Surfside Press Conference Transcript August 10

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference in Surfside on August 10, 2021. He thanked first responders and handed out bonus checks. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.

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Ron DeSantis: (06:42)
The mics loud? Yeah. Wow. Well, good morning. It’s great to be with you. I’m also joined by the first lady who’s here, and then our little daughter Madison who loves firefighters. We also have DEO secretary Dane Eagle, Lieutenant governor Jeanette Nuñez. I don’t know if all of these are here, but I know I saw some of them, but I’ll just announce representatives. Lupus, Borello, Bush, Fabricio, Rizzo. And then senators, I saw Manny Diaz. I did not see Eliana Garcia or Anna Maria, but if they’re here, want to welcome them as well. Miami Dade Fire Chief, Alan Cominsky. Thank you. City of Miami Fire Chief, Joseph Zahralban. Thank you. And then members of two of Florida’s Urban Search and Rescue Teams, Task Force One and Task Force Two.

Ron DeSantis: (07:37)
So we, at the beginning of this year, when we were looking at what we wanted to do in the budget for the legislative session had a lot of initiatives. One of them is we want to do something to say thank you to our first responders, the fire, law enforcement, EMTs, who put it on the line for the rest of us. And particularly, as we’ve seen some law enforcement not always being treated well, we wanted to show Florida stands with you. We appreciate what you’re doing. And we proposed as part of our package thousand dollars bonuses for every police, law enforcement, and EMT in the state of Florida. And so we were able to get the legislature to approve it.

Ron DeSantis: (08:20)
You know how these things work. There’s bureaucracy to get everything done. So we’re now in a position where we’re finally able to deliver checks to people to say, “Thank you.” And this was the right thing to do anyways. But I think in the legislature probably, I guess, probably passed it at the beginning of May, the end of April. And I signed the budget sometime in June and it was the right thing to do.

Ron DeSantis: (08:41)
But then of course we saw here in Surfside, towards the end of June, the tragic collapse of Champlain Tower South and how the folks in this room were there from the beginning, saving lives, helping, and then of course, looking through all that terrible wreckage to try to find people in the many, many days after. It was a very, very emotional time for a lot of people involved, obviously the families. There’s tragedy in life, it’s terrible. But you just don’t think a building collapses in the middle of the night without something happening. So I think there was a shock that the families had and then just not knowing for sure, I mean, because it was a terrible collapse, but you hope that there’d be a lot of people that would be able to be found as the days went on. So that was really agonizing. And I know the men and women who were on that pile, that was the mission. And you guys just would not get off that. You wanted to be there. It was really part of your hearts and you were doing all you can to stand with those families. So, and I know how tough … Because I was here. I was here every day for those first couple of weeks. And I know how hard people worked. I know how hard particularly Taskforce One and Two worked. I mean, we were fortunate that as the days went on, we started to get some other folks in Florida to come down. We even got …

Ron DeSantis: (10:03)
Days went on. We started to get some other folks in Florida to come down. We even got some folks from other states to come down, which we really appreciated it. But make no mistake, the folks in this room, they carried a very, very heavy load. So we thank you for doing that. And we want to recognize you today for your service.

Ron DeSantis: (10:19)
This whole incident in Surfside was a big, big gut punch to so many of our communities in Florida. The folks who lived in that tower who passed away, but even the folks that you guys rescued, that’s a traumatic experience, too, that they’re going to have to live with the rest of their lives. But the folks that we lost, just a remarkable group of people, some of these best families you’ve ever seen with so many people. And I think they’ve had such an impressive influence that it hurts. And it’s something that’s going to leave a mark in this community for a long, long time.

Ron DeSantis: (10:59)
But as tough as that was, I think the fact that those families can look and say, “You guys were there. You did everything you could.” I remember being in there. I mean, I know Ray, you would have to brief the families. And I remember after 24, 48 hours or so, they thought that they would be getting better news. And there was a lot of frustration. And some of them asked me, “Why don’t you let the Israelis come in or whatever?” And I was like, “Look, they’re doing everything.” But then, so we did do that. And Israelis, they’re very good at this. They went, they looked, they told the families, “You know what? They’ve done everything we would have done. They’ve done everything right. They’re getting the job done.”

Ron DeSantis: (11:41)
And so that made the families, I think, feel very good. But I think now people look back and they know that there were no punches pulled on this. This was a full throttle effort. Everything that could have been done was done. And that was obviously at risk to many of your health and safety in this room. So we thank you for doing that. And we think that what we’re doing today… We had planned on doing this anyway. I mean, obviously we had passed it. I had signed it. You were going to get it anyways. And you deserved it. And I know many of you, I mean, I remember when we were doing the senior vaccinations, we did over 15,000 where you’d go into the senior’s home and offer vaccinations, particularly for very elderly people.

Ron DeSantis: (12:24)
And I had people in Dade Fire and Rescue that are doing that. So there was so much that was done over the last year, year and a half, that we say thank you. But of course, here in Surfside, this was an absolutely tragic event and something that’s going to leave a mark on our state for a long, long time. But thank you. We’re here to say thank you. I think the legislature doing this when I proposed it, a lot of people were like, “Well, I don’t know if that’s going to fly.” They answered the call. They did it. And then here we are. Look, you don’t get into this business that you guys are in… You’re not going to be a billionaire. We know that. I mean, you’re putting yourself out. You have a servant’s heart, and it’s not all about the money, but if we can show a token of appreciation like this, we want to be able to do it. And so we’re happy to do that.

Ron DeSantis: (13:20)
We look forward to handing out these checks. We’re going to hear from a couple other folks. And I always try to speak before the first lady, because I never want to follow the first lady. So the first lady would love to say a few things.

Casey DeSantis: (13:34)
Governor, I do remember meeting with a lot of the families. It was in this room where we had some of those briefings and we remember that. But I thought it was just really important, as did the governor, just to come and say thank you and tell you one quick story.

Casey DeSantis: (13:46)
So we’re very blessed to live in the governor’s mansion. And the governor’s mansion is about four or five blocks away from a fire station. And we’ve become very good friends with our firefighter friends. So we take the kids, we walk down there. Sometimes we bring cookies. Sometimes we eat them. When we get there, sometimes we have cookies, we get sugar high, we come back. It’s a disaster. That’s another story. But we go down there to say thank you. And the kids now, whenever we hear a siren outside the governor’s mansion, the kids go, “Those are firefighter friends to the rescue.” I mean, it is so impactful. Everything that you all have done.

Casey DeSantis: (14:22)
And as the governor said, you really do have a servant’s heart. I’ve had the pleasure and the distinction to sit down with a lot of firefighters to see that, yes, you do have a servant’s heart, but a lot of time that comes with an emotional toll that a lot of people do not want to talk about. And it is very hard to sometimes seek help because one of the things that I have learned is that you don’t really want to sometimes reach out to somebody who doesn’t have that lived experience, because you want to be able to relate with somebody who has been in your shoes.

Casey DeSantis: (14:50)
So we are working very hard with the Department of Children and Families, who are all also working with our legislative partners and federal partners to see what funds are available and to see if there are avenues to be able to devote some of those federal block grants to go towards mental health and emotional health for our first responders. So we’re just here. Madison is very excited because she wants to fist bump every one of you. And Mason would want to be here. It would be a little bit too much. Mamie, 16 months, way too much. But we all wanted to say just thank you and God bless you for your service.

Ron DeSantis: (15:30)
Dane Eagle.

Speaker 5: (15:34)
I’ll be brief. I just really wanted to thank the governor and the first lady, the first family, really. We got a future governor of Florida here in Madison for coming and making this a priority. The governor really prioritized this last legislative session understanding what you all went through during COVID, and especially what you all went through, through Surfside as well, and our legislature for backing that up. So Department of Economic Opportunity simply helped them facilitating the governor’s vision of making sure that you all receive the payments you so earnestly deserve. And we look forward to assisting with that. Lieutenant governor, I believe, is going to read off some names. And as she does, please come up and receive your check from the governor. We’ll assist with that. I’ll stand aside and just facilitate. Thank you all for what you do. Where are we doing this at? Right here?

Jeanette Nuñez: (16:19)
Well, again, thank you so much. I reiterate what’s been said already. Born and raised in south Florida. I know that we have some of the best in the business, and I think the whole world got to see that on full display during Surfside. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that our thoughts and prayers are with city of Hialeah. They lost one of their firefighters a few days ago, firefighter Crisanto Villa. So we will continue to pray for his family. And with that, I will read off your names and please come on down and grab a check. Well-deserved, and God bless you. Ahmed Abusala.

Ron DeSantis: (16:49)
Thanks for your service.

Jeanette Nuñez: (16:54)
Arturo Aberro. Melanie Adams. Eduardo Alarcon. David Albert. Gustavo Allejano.

Ron DeSantis: (18:06)
Thank you.

Jeanette Nuñez: (18:27)
Keon Atai. Umberto Audi. Claude Audit. Eric Balm. Reuben Behar.

Ron DeSantis: (19:12)
Getting a lot of presents.

Jeanette Nuñez: (19:12)
Yes. Keith Bell. Javier Blanco. Robert Cardinas.

Jeanette Nuñez: (20:09)
Our very own chief, Alan Cominsky.

Jeanette Nuñez: (20:29)
Javier Crespo. George Cruz.

Jeanette Nuñez: (20:54)
Eric [Tellarmos 00:20:54].

Jeanette Nuñez: (20:54)
Scott Dean.

Jeanette Nuñez: (20:54)
Chris Diaz.

Jeanette Nuñez: (20:54)
Alejandro Fernandez.

Jeanette Nuñez: (20:54)
Jason Fernandez.

Jeanette Nuñez: (20:54)
Charles Francois. Thank you, sir.

Jeanette Nuñez: (22:29)
Obed Promenta. Carlos Garcia.

Ron DeSantis: (22:38)
Appreciate you.

Speaker 6: (22:44)
Thank you to all.

Ron DeSantis: (22:45)
Thank you.

Jeanette Nuñez: (22:47)
Wilbert Hall.

Jeanette Nuñez: (22:57)
Eric Hernandez.

Speaker 7: (22:58)
There you go. Now you got it.

Jeanette Nuñez: (23:08)
Arthur Holmes Jr.

Jeanette Nuñez: (23:17)
Assistant Chief Ray Jadallah.

Jeanette Nuñez: (23:36)
[crosstalk 00:23:36] William Lisea.

Jeanette Nuñez: (23:44)
Robert Maguire.

Speaker 8: (23:52)

Jeanette Nuñez: (23:57)
Tracy McGill. Brian Mitchell.

Jeanette Nuñez: (24:25)
Jason Mulgarry. Grant Musser.

Jeanette Nuñez: (24:48)
Ricky Noelle.

Ron DeSantis: (25:04)
Thank you.

Speaker 9: (25:06)
[inaudible 00:25:06].

Speaker 7: (25:08)
[inaudible 00:25:08]

Jeanette Nuñez: (25:08)
Brandy Patternoster.

Speaker 7: (25:09)
Hi little one. Can I get these ones? [Inaudible 00:25:28].

Jeanette Nuñez: (25:10)
Miguel Feralta.

Jeanette Nuñez: (25:43)
[Lasaro Perrera 00:25:43]. John Rojas. Jeffrey Rouse.

Jeanette Nuñez: (26:17)
Eric Sanchez.

Jeanette Nuñez: (26:19)
Michael Lewis.

Speaker 7: (26:19)
Uh oh. You’re not going to hold that one? You’re not going to go for that one? Yeah.

Jeanette Nuñez: (26:20)
Jose [Siute 00:26:20].

Speaker 7: (26:20)
That’s pretty cool.

Speaker 10: (26:20)
Thank you.

Jeanette Nuñez: (26:20)
Thank you.

Jeanette Nuñez: (26:20)
Pedro Soto.

Ron DeSantis: (26:20)
Thanks for your service. Make sure you [inaudible 00:26:20].

Jeanette Nuñez: (26:20)
Ricardo Stevens.

Jeanette Nuñez: (26:20)
Michael Ung.

Jeanette Nuñez: (26:20)
Louis Malediano. Brandon Webb.

Speaker 11: (27:47)
Governor, we’d like to give you something.

Ron DeSantis: (27:47)

Speaker 11: (27:48)
If you would.

Ron DeSantis: (27:51)
Oh wow.

Speaker 11: (27:56)
We want to thank you for your support.

Ron DeSantis: (27:57)
Oh yeah. That’s awesome. Wow.

Speaker 11: (27:57)
From Florida Taskforce One and all of them being part of it. Thank you so much.

Ron DeSantis: (27:57)
Thank you.

Jeanette Nuñez: (27:57)
Very nice.

Ron DeSantis: (28:14)
We’ll have this in the governor’s office and the Capitol. So if you guys ever in town in Tallahassee, come by. You’ll see it there. So thank you.

Jeanette Nuñez: (28:24)
Darren Williams. Willie Williams.

Ron DeSantis: (28:37)
Thank you so much.

Jeanette Nuñez: (28:47)
Carlos Seekays.

Speaker 12: (28:49)
Thank you.

Jeanette Nuñez: (29:06)
Those were the names that I had of individuals that registered. If there are any of you that did not get your check, come on down to that guy right there. He’s the many with the money.

Ron DeSantis: (29:17)
So, well, one thank you for your service. And thank you. I think she got a couple of patches and she got a coin.

Speaker 7: (29:23)
Yeah. She’s not letting me hold the coin.

Ron DeSantis: (29:26)
She’s made out quite well. But this is a small token. I mean, obviously there’s so much more that anyone wishes they could do. But we did think it was important to say, “We thank you.” Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Not only for what you’ve done throughout your careers, but particularly when tragedy struck here, just refusing to take no for an answer and doing everything you can. The blood, toil, tears and sweat that were left on that was real. And it was honestly, as bad as the situation was, when you see people rise to the occasion like you guys did, you know that there are people out …

Ron DeSantis: (30:03)
… rise to the occasion, like you guys did. You know that there are people out there that are watching out for us and that will be there to support us. So, God bless you for what you’ve done, and this is well deserved. So take a couple of questions. Yes, sir.

Speaker 13: (30:17)
[inaudible 00:30:17] the kids are getting better quicker.

Ron DeSantis: (30:30)
So I think it’s important because remember last year when we were going for the school year, there was an attempt to try to say, “You can’t do school. It wouldn’t be safe.” In fact, I got sued to try to close the schools. We won that. We did it. We looked at the data in other countries, even in other parts of the United States and we knew that that in-person schooling was a low risk environment. And the kids fortunately, were very low risk. And so we had a school year in person. Man, just think how much worse we’d be off had we not had kids in school. Some of these places that locked them out for over a year, that’s going to have long-term consequences for these kids, and it falls on mostly low working class, middle income kids.

Ron DeSantis: (31:14)
A lot of the wealthier families, some of these politicians, they want to close schools and then they send their kids to private school in person, which is just crazy. And so there was attempt to do that. Now there’s an attempt to say that the Delta variant has changed a lot with respect to kids. Here’s what I can tell you. If you look throughout the entire pandemic between 1.1 and 1.4% of COVID positive patients in Florida, hospitals have been pediatrics. And right now, it’s 1.3%. So you’ve not seen a change in the proportion of the young people who end up being admitted. It’s also important to note, when they talk about COVID positive patients in the hospital, that means anyone that’s tested positive. And most are being treated for COVID of course, but if you go in for a procedure, they’re going to test you, they test everyone that walks in.

Ron DeSantis: (32:06)
And so if you test positive, you’re considered a COVID positive patient, even though you may not be treated for patients. The average throughout hospitals in Florida for that generally, about 25% of the patients are COVID positive, but are not being treated for COVID. With pediatrics it’s between 25 and even 40%. The one thing that I think is different from last year to this year with respect to pediatrics is not as much COVID, but RSV. So we’ve had an RSV wave this year, we did have very little last year. Florida, I think has peaked on that, but that actually, RSV for young kids, that’s much more of a concern than the COVID. So we haven’t seen any major change in terms of the percentage of hospitalized COVID positive folks in hospitals that are pediatrics. It’s 1.3% of all COVID positive patients are pediatrics. And that has been pretty consistent throughout the entire pandemic.

Speaker 14: (33:04)
Excuse me, Governor. Just a quick question. There are a lot of major school districts in the state who support having mask mandates in their schools. Can you please talk about why you’re opposed to that and why you don’t think that’s something that-

Ron DeSantis: (33:17)
So we think that we think it’s ultimately the parents’ decision. We think that this is something that intimately affects the health and wellbeing of young kids. We had a whole year to watch how this has developed in Florida and throughout the United States and throughout the world. And I can tell you, in Florida, we had school districts that mandated it last year, others that didn’t, same with private and charter, and there was no statistical difference in terms of the cases. There was a study done by Emily Oster of Brown University, looked at New York, Massachusetts, and Florida. They found no correlation to forced masking and differences in cases. But you also have a situation where a lot of parents have come to me, they’ve come to the school boards and said, this has been very difficult on their young kids. To have to sit there for eight hours with this.

Ron DeSantis: (34:08)
It’s not natural. It’s never been studied what the effects of that are. NIH has a $42 billion budget, they’ve not spent a single penny since COVID started studying how these mitigations affect kids. So ultimately my view is, it’s a parent’s decision. If you believe in the masking during the school, you’re free to do it. No one’s saying you can’t do it. But if you’re somebody that is concerned about that, that thinks that that may not be the right thing for your child, then I think you should have the right to make that ultimate decision and I don’t think government should override that. So for me, it’s about the parents and it’s about trying to vindicate parents’ ability to make these decisions. But I think yesterday, Anthony Fauci said, “We don’t know whether it’s harmful. We hope not.” That’s where they’re at.

Ron DeSantis: (34:55)
So they don’t really know. So this is a big experiment to have tens of millions of kids, particularly the young kids that are going to be wearing this all day, though, the air flow, some of the other things with learning, particularly for younger grades when you’re learning phonics and some of that other stuff. So there’s a whole host of issues in my view is clearly, if you look at the data, it’s totally reasonable for a parent to say, “You know what? I’d rather send my kid to school without wearing the mask.” So that’s what it’s about. It’s about parental choice, not government mandate. And I think ultimately parents will be able to exercise the choices that they deem appropriate for their kids. But I would just remind folks, last year, during this time, as we’re getting ready for school you had a lot of howling.

Ron DeSantis: (35:40)
People said you shouldn’t do it. You shouldn’t go to school. Shouldn’t have in person. As I said, I got sued by the teacher’s union to close the schools. And we felt very strongly that every parent had the right to send their kid to school in person. We thought it was important for child’s development, thought it was important for not just academics, but just being in school and not sitting at home all day, and that was the right thing to do. Now we’re in a situation where even the most loudest people from last year, they know trying to say that you shouldn’t have schools open, that’s like a third rail at this point. And so I think something somewhere is going to happen. We already know that schools have been run. Some schools had no students chose to wore masks in different parts of Florida.

Ron DeSantis: (36:27)
And the results were not materially different from there. So with all that data, United Kingdom doesn’t have masks, Sweden doesn’t have masks, Iceland, Netherlands, all those, they’ve been doing this too. You got to look at that data and look at it. And what that tells me is this is ultimately a personal choice. And look, we can get into the efficacy of this. It’s an aerosolized virus, is a piece of cloth going to stop? We can get into all that from an engineering perspective, but I can tell you, kindergartners, everyone admits that whatever efficacy of masking, you have to wear it fitted properly and tight. Do you honestly think these young kids are doing that? So I don’t think it’s really doing much. And so as a parent, I think parents should look to say it’s doing more harm than good.

Ron DeSantis: (37:12)
And I’d also think that we’ve talked to students over the last couple of months and what they would say is, “Hey, my school last year made us all wear masks and we’d be in masks during school. And then after school, we’d all be hanging out at homes and nobody would be …” Of course, they’re not going to do that. And so you have to ask yourself, what are the potential harms from this? And should parents ultimately be the ones to make the decision? And I think parents should be the ones to make the decision. And if parents choose to mask some of these young children, that may not be the decision I make, but you know what? I trust them to know their circumstances better than government. But the converse is true as well. If parents are concerned about what that has done, their development and some of those other issues that have not been investigated the way they should have been, then I think that they should be able to make the decision as well.

Speaker 14: (38:05)
Governor, [crosstalk 00:38:05]-

Ron DeSantis: (38:05)
Thank you guys. I’ve got to run we’re going to-

Speaker 14: (38:12)
Pull state funds from districts that support mask mandates? Is that still-

Ron DeSantis: (38:13)
What we’re going to do is we’re going to do whatever we can to vindicate the rights of parents and make sure that parents are in the driver’s seat when it comes to the health, education and welfare of their kids. And these should not be decreed by the government, this should be something that a parent is ultimately making the decision on. And there’s different parents that feel differently about it. I respect that, but I think to force one way is alienating and marginalizing a lot of parents throughout the State of Florida, and I think we want to be supporting that.

Ron DeSantis: (38:45)
So, we’ll do all we can to be able to vindicate those rights. But I think ultimately, I think what you’ll see is I think most of the school districts most of the mask policies expired. I know you’ve had a couple of districts that have done stuff recently, but at the end of the day, I know given parent that option, you’re free to recommend. You can encourage whatever you want, but I just don’t think you can override the rights and the decisions of the parents. Thanks everybody. I got to go. We’re going to do some more today. You guys deserved it and I can’t thank you enough for your great service to the people of Florida. God bless you all.

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