Mar 17, 2020
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Coronavirus Briefing Transcript
Florida governor Ron DeSantis held a COVID-19 briefing for the state of Florida today. Read the full transcript of his press conference here.
Ron DeSantis: (00:00)
Gets out. We will be, hopefully, making an announcement about the opening of the Broward drive-through testing that we’re working on in conjunction with Memorial Health and the Florida National Guard. I think that that could be a positive development. So with that, I’m happy to take some questions.
Speaker 2: (00:19)
Governor, there are a couple of deaths being reported through social media and then through officials, but your office has not, or the Department of Health, has not confirmed possibly two additional deaths at an assisted living facility.
Ron DeSantis: (00:34)
We did report the one death today. There is another individual, I believe, in the same assisted living facility who also died, but has not yet tested positive. If they do test positive, then obviously that will be reported. But this was an individual that had been hospitalized with some serious issues anyways. So we’ll await that and then be able to put it out, and then I did not get any new death figures when I came out, but if there are any since earlier, that will be reflected in the update. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 3: (01:05)
Also on schools, just to clarify, so you talked about waiving testing and things of that nature. Does that mean that students in K through 12 schools will be online for the rest of the spring semester?
Ron DeSantis: (01:16)
I don’t know. It means that for sure, but I think we’re viewing it as let’s say that this thing is arrested and things get better into April, maybe kids are back. I think it’s our position, Richard and myself, that we’re not going to then ramp up for to do the testing. So that’ll be true whether it’s virtual or whether they’re back in school.
Speaker 3: (01:39)
Just to clarify, does that mean that there might be more announcements on more weeks of virtual learning after the two weeks that have started?
Ron DeSantis: (01:46)
So, we’re going to make a decision on that this week. I don’t know, Richard, why don’t you tell about the one that the few counties, what they’re doing?
So all we’ve said basically to the K-12 schools is we’re extending not going onto the campus until April 15th, because we did that, as the Governor said, you can’t have kids come back and then you need about two weeks and then you’d have to, so we’d be into May for testing. It’s not going to work. But what we’re saying to the schools is they still have to give those instructional hours and they’re going to do a fantastic job. We’ve had four schools who have already been on spring break, of the other 63 are on spring break this week or next week, so they’re going to come back on Monday. Most of the K-5 kids, they’re going to do all kinds of innovative. They’re using the bus drivers to have drop off points, just like with the food for instructions for biweekly. On the sixth through 12, almost all of them have devices or they have money now that they can spend for devices for low income kids and internet access, so all the 6-12 will be virtual.
Speaker 3: (02:40)
Also, for those-
No, and then as the other schools come online, because they have the spring break and the one week off that ends in March, as those come on through April 15th, all schools will be doing similarly as being done by Duval, Sumter, Collier and Union are already doing it and are up and ready to run on Monday.
Speaker 5: (03:02)
You referenced the universities taking the rest of the semester off. What about the 28 community colleges and [crosstalk 00:03:09]?
Ron DeSantis: (03:09)
Well, so just so we clarify, they’re not technically off, they are going to do remote learning, but we want them to be doing that where the students are doing that from their homes of residence, with their parents or wherever they, but we don’t want to have thousands of undergraduate students, hitting bars or I guess they can’t do the bars now, but just congregating in a fraternity house or something and doing that because we’re trying to create some social distance, so we feel that that’s the case. Richard, do you want to address how they handle the colleges?
The colleges are, again, are remaining closed just as the universities, and they will continue the semester remotely as the universities are, and get the full semester in for learning.
Speaker 5: (03:48)
Will you expect the staff to show up on campus or will-
No, we leave that to discretion of the presidents. They run the university, but generally speaking, even the professors are doing it by remote access.
Speaker 6: (03:59)
Governor, about the federal stimulus, and talking to Senator Rubio, perhaps also the White House, any [inaudible 00:04:06] that you add specifically to Florida? Any things that you would want in there to help out?
Ron DeSantis: (04:10)
Yeah, what I want is immediate relief for people dislocated. There’s all these great ideas people talk about of, initially the House wanted to do a program through the Social Security Administration for sick leave, and I’m just thinking to myself, have you ever dealt with the federal government? They get the sick leave in December and that is not what’s going to make the difference. You’re going to have people who are living paycheck to paycheck, who were involved with industries that were doing very well, and they were gainfully employed, and there all of a sudden not going to have a job, and we hope that that’s a short term thing, but I can tell you, if you can get money into the hands of folks, and I do think some of these small businesses, so Senator Rubio and I talked about we did $50 million for the Bridge Loan here, they’re looking to do something even more significant, which I think will be very, very important.
Ron DeSantis: (05:02)
I mean this is so much different than some of the other kind of crises we’ve seen. In 2008 you had a lot of people that made a lot of bad decisions and then they were ending up getting money on the back end even though they made the bad decisions. Here you have people who are doing a good job, and a lot of these folks were doing well, and you have an external event that does something. So if you’re a small business, what you don’t want is you to go under and have no chance to make it through this when you didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, a lot of these folks are doing very… Our unemployment rate was 2.8% here. A lot of people were doing a lot of great things, so relief, as much relief as we can get to get them past this period.
Ron DeSantis: (05:47)
I do believe that there’s going to be pent up demand. I mean, I think that people are already getting a little tired with all the changes we’ve seen in society, and hopefully this doesn’t go on for months and months, but I can just tell you when we get on the backside of this, I think people are really going to want to get back to work. So, I think immediate relief for the folks dislocated and then help for those small businesses who have liquidity, who may have liquidity problems and have a real serious cash crunch. That’s what we tried to do with the corporate deferral for the taxes and state, and that’s what we’re trying to do with our Bridge Loan here. The federal government, obviously they can bring some more resources to bear, so I’d encourage them to do it.
Speaker 7: (06:28)
We all know that it’s not the easiest to appropriate the money, I mean, Congress can say though, “Here’s the money,” but actually appropriating it’s another issue, and grants could take months to apply for.
Ron DeSantis: (06:38)
Well, that’s why on this, they asked Mnuchin, “Hey, if you want to get cash in the hands, does that mean a millionaire would get it?” and he’s like, “Of course not,” and I don’t want a millionaire to get it. But the thing is, the minute you try to do all this, it makes it more complicated. So I’d say as simple as possible, get it to the people that need it. If by doing that, some people that don’t need it get something, fine, I’ll encourage them to donate it to charity. But it has got to be done quickly and simply, otherwise it’s just not going to have the intended effect. Yes sir.
Speaker 8: (07:07)
When did you first learn about this death at the assisted living center in Broward, and can you walk us through how the state is responding to this right now?
Ron DeSantis: (07:15)
So, I learned about it this morning because it happened overnight, so while I let the Surgeon General, I mean, they sent a team immediately and-
Scott Rivkees: (07:22)
Yeah, thank you. We learned about it late last evening and we immediately sent a strike force team out there from the Department of Health, which had the director of the County Health Department, their epidemiologist, infection control experts, nursing representation from AHCA and representation from the facility. Then later in the evening we actually had a call with the Center for Disease Control where they took information, and then had further follow up this morning with CDC.
Speaker 10: (07:51)
Dr. Rivkees, I had a follow up question on that. I know that local officials in Broward County were reporting three deaths, not the two. Can you expand on that? Is that related? I know it’s two at the one facility. What about the third?
Scott Rivkees: (08:05)
Yeah. We have one confirmed individual who passed from COVID-19, and all other individuals who have symptoms for that are passed away or being evaluated.
Speaker 11: (08:14)
Governor, on the people paycheck to paycheck, it’s my understanding that Florida’s max unemployment benefit per week is $275. It also has [crosstalk 00:08:24]-
Ron DeSantis: (08:23)
I think it’s a little higher. What is it?
Speaker 12: (08:25)
Ron DeSantis: (08:26)
$275 still, okay. Yep.
Speaker 11: (08:28)
And it has one of the lowest amount of max state paid level under the federal government. Is that something that should be looked at in light of the crisis we’re about to have?
Ron DeSantis: (08:36)
I think we’re willing to look at everything. I mean, I think that we obviously have a role at the state to play, but I think that the federal government’s got really the might to be able to bring a real quick relief to bear. And I think most of the people up there now I think are thinking in that way, and I think you heard the President today, he had talked about the payroll tax cut and he said, “Look, I like that. But I also understand, this is something that’ll be over several months. Get something out quickly. It’s something that makes a lot of sense.” So I do think you’re starting to see a convergence on that and hopefully that’ll be helpful. And then we have to look at what we’re able to do to help as well.
Speaker 13: (09:13)
[crosstalk 00:09:13] Sorry about that. I’ve would like a follow up to Sam’s question. I think she said there are maybe three deaths at two different facilities, and I wasn’t sure that was clearly explained.
Scott Rivkees: (09:25)
Yes, so we’re talking about one facility where one individual who passed away was known to have COVID-19, and we don’t have any other confirmed COVID-19 cases, but we’re looking at it for the individuals at that facility. Thank you.
Speaker 13: (09:41)
So, you’re looking at two facilities.
Scott Rivkees: (09:44)
No, one facility, looking at other individuals who may have been at that facility that passed away to see if they have COVID [crosstalk 00:09:53].
Speaker 13: (09:53)
How many people are in that facility?
Scott Rivkees: (09:57)
There are 218 individuals in that facility.
Speaker 14: (10:01)
I just have a follow up. The Governor said earlier that certain populations are, I think this may be for the Governor, or August or Terry, but you said earlier that certain populations can get the shot, but I thought I heard Secretary Mayhew say yesterday that the shot is not being given to someone frail or elderly-
Ron DeSantis: (10:25)
Speaker 14: (10:25)
I’m sorry, the test.
Ron DeSantis: (10:27)
Yeah, so no, I mean she has said we need to make this clear because I’ve been saying to people and saying it, but there’s still I think some that are relying on kind of outdated guidance. And so that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come and say very clearly all those individuals I enumerated qualify, and so while we have limited resources and a guy like me who’s younger and doesn’t have any symptoms, I just shouldn’t walk up and get a test. It’s not a good use of resources. When you have some of these folks with symptoms, you don’t need to go in the travel history. You don’t need to go in this or anything like that. They should be given access to tests, and so we just want to make that clear to folks.
Ron DeSantis: (11:07)
Obviously we’ve worked hard to be bringing more testing. I mean, Jared’s brought a lot of materials. Let me tell you, that stuff is being hotly sought after across the country right now, and so he did a good job for Florida to have ordered that very early, and that’s been distributed, a lot of it, and then some of these other things, people were under swabs, all that, we’ve got more of that coming in. And so the materials will be there. The labs, what happens with these CLIA certified labs, so we had three state labs that would do the testing. So remember, originally, anybody that was swabbed, you had to send it all the way to Atlanta and the CDC. So that was taking five days before someone could get a result. So, doing the state labs allows it to be usually about 48 hours.
Ron DeSantis: (11:52)
But what happens with the state labs is you can run a test in what probably four or five hours if you just put it right in. The problem is, is if you do that, then you can’t test anything else. So if I just had one sample, run it through, I could do it in four or five, but then I wouldn’t be able to use that machine. So what they do is they fill up the capacity, then they run it through. So it takes longer than just four or five hours, but it’s more efficient to do it that way than if you did it one at a time. So we had all three of those labs that are doing that, and so they have the capacity to do several hundred a day. The other CLIA labs, Jared has gotten test kits to them. Some of the other stuff that they need, a positive negative is going to be delivered too, well, some of them have it, not all, but they’re in the process of kind of making sure that their labs are able to do this.
Ron DeSantis: (12:41)
So there’s a little process that goes. So I think, Scott, what do you think like next week that a lot of those other CLIA labs will be able to do it? So that just expands capacity. But I think like three months ago, I didn’t know anything about the… But this is not just like you go and do, it’s a test that involves a lot of different things and it’s novel. It requires a lot of manpower, a lot of lab work, so I think by having more options to do this, we’re going to hopefully be able to do this, and then Labcorp and Quest, we have a contract with them, so we can send this stuff overnight. They test it and they’re usually turning it around within 48 hours, and they’ll actually notify the person directly with their results. And so we’re a lot different than where we were two weeks ago with the testing, and I think hopefully next week and beyond I’ll be able to say we’re doing even more. One more.
Speaker 15: (13:36)
Question about the drive through testing lab in Broward County, and in light of your recent comments about the groups that are enumerated that can be tested, what’s the state’s response going to be if people who are not in those categories show up there to be tested?
Ron DeSantis: (13:50)
So, what we’re going to do, and we will firmly announce this very soon, but I can tell you the priority one group is going to be the healthcare workers, because they need if they’ve been exposed, if they’re positive, if they show symptoms, do they have COVID-19 or not? And so we want to make sure that they have the ability to do it, and then we also want to make sure that those folks who are 65 and plus and are exhibiting symptoms, that they have an easy way to go in and get tested. So, those two for sure are going to be priority, and then it’s just a matter of working with the hospital, seeing the kind of manpower, I mean, you’ve seen this be tried across the country, and a lot of times it hasn’t worked.
Ron DeSantis: (14:37)
What we don’t want is to have people waiting in line for four hours in their cars thinking that they’re going to do. So I think what it’ll be is there’ll be clear criteria, and then you will hopefully be given a window of when to come so that you’re not waiting in your car all day. And then as that gets up and running and that model is something that people are comfortable with, then we can look at going beyond that. But there’s other opportunities to be tested, but that is what we’re going to do to try to get it to get it going in a good way. The National Guard’s put a lot of folks there. I mean, are they knocking down trees and stuff? So they’re knocking down trees to make sure people have room and the cars and everything.
Ron DeSantis: (15:19)
So they’ve worked really hard, and then so we want to do that. And then we also, I had mentioned, we’ve requested three sites from the federal. That hopefully can happen soon, but I can tell you, I don’t think it’s going to be where the feds come and they say, “Let’s start testing.” I think they’re going to provide us materials and then we’re going to have to partner, have a healthcare provider be involved. We may have to have some guard personnel. Jared has healthcare professionals on contract that we can surge in, but my sense is they’re just going to be dropping this stuff at various locations. So we’re going to have to look at that. And then I also talked with Mary about if they do choose Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, and then we have the Broward, then we’d look on the west coast, maybe look at Tampa, one of those places to see if we could partner there.
Ron DeSantis: (16:07)
So this thing is a something that is a work in progress, but I think they’ve made a lot of progress on this thing, and we just want to go and get as many people results as possible. I mean, part of the problem with this whole response in terms of the mitigation is, and I’m not criticizing any of the mitigation that the President’s recommended or, but you’re doing it not really based on a lot of data. I mean that’s just the reality that we find ourselves in. With influenza, they have a surveillance program, so they’ll test hundreds of thousands of people for influenza and they’ll know how many are positive, and then they can build a model about that. Here you’re relying on half-baked figures from China. Maybe the Italy numbers are a little bit better, but the extent to which this is being spread in our society by people who have minimal symptoms, and who may not be in these age groups, is kind of a question that nobody really knows the actual answer to, but that would obviously help us inform it.
Ron DeSantis: (17:05)
And so the more we can do the testing, I think most people are going to come back negative, but it gives us a better baseline, I think, to be able to make some of the decisions. Because we’re in a situation here, there’s going to eventually be mitigation fatigue with the public, and you don’t want to be doing mitigation in areas where it may not be required. And if you can isolate better because you have the data to do it, then you’re in a position where I think you’ll have more tools to be able to bring to it.
Ron DeSantis: (17:35)
So there’s just a lot that’s going to go into it, but I’m happy that we’re going to finally be able to launch something this week, and we just want to keep working with folks because I know a lot of people are really concerned. I mean, just roll back three ago, I mean, Wuhan had broken out, you had seen some stuff, but just think how it’s escalated and how concerned a lot of people are, and so we want to be able to be able to help folks, and if there’s folks that have these symptoms, particularly in those groups, we want to get them tested. So we’ll have a update tomorrow, but thank you guys for coming out.