Mar 23, 2020

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Coronavirus Briefing Transcript: March 23

Florida Governor Ron Desantis Coronavirus Briefing
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis Coronavirus Briefing Transcript: March 23

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a COVID-19 briefing today for the state. He is requiring isolation for any flying in from New York or New Jersey. Read the full transcript of his speech right here.

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Ron DeSantis: (00:00)
And so when you do the appointment process, there’ll be a prescreening. You’ll be assessed for symptoms, travel, exposure history, and then if you meet criteria, test it, and you could be further evaluated on site. However, I think the neat thing about this is, when we’re testing people, you’re typically looking for symptoms. Initially the CDC said, well, if you’ve been in one of these countries, you’d test; then they said, if you’ve got certain respiratory, now it’s kind of… look, if a doctor says you have symptoms, particularly if you’re 65, you test… and so it’s good that that’s been broadened. This will broaden that even more, because if you do not meet even broad screening criteria to have your sample clinically tested, you can still elect to have your sample tested by separate UF-developed tests for COVID, and so that will go into research to be able to determine how prevalent COVID-19 is among asymptomatic individuals, and we don’t really know that for sure.

Ron DeSantis: (01:07)
Some people think you really don’t spread it until you start to show some symptoms. Other people think, people that don’t even know they have it are probably the ones that are spreading it. So this will help give us some data on that, and I really applaud them being able to do that, because that’s going to be some of the most valuable information that we can have. So the staff’s going to take 2000 samples this week, 400 per day, Monday through Friday; it’ll be 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM, and then the staff’s going to reassess the hours of operation and amount of testing at the end of the week based on available supplies. And so… but both the clinical and research tests are going to be performed at the University of Florida’s lab, and results will be delivered in 24 hours, and you don’t have to live in the Villages to get tested.

Ron DeSantis: (01:54)
But I want to thank UF because we had the issues with the different labs. When this all started, every sample that was taken in the state of Florida had to be sent to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and that was a very cumbersome process. A lot of times you didn’t even get results for a week. Then we were able to have certified our three state laboratories, but then since, then it’s been liberalized so we can take advantage of these resources at places like the University of Florida, and that’s a big, big help. It’s a force multiplier.

Ron DeSantis: (02:28)
So this site is adding to a lot of sites that are being successfully run across the state of Florida. It’s been a top priority to expand access to testing for people. This past weekend… or actually, last Friday, we… I at the Florida National Guard partnered with Broward Memorial in Broward County, which is one of the places where we have the most spread, to do a drive through testing site. And we are hoping to be able to process 200 to 300 people a day, and wanted to try to do that.

Ron DeSantis: (03:02)
Well, I’m happy to report on day one, they ended up processing 745 samples. Day two, they did 701 samples. And then yesterday, they did 558 samples. And so, that is open seven days a week and we really appreciate the Guard. We appreciate Memorial Healthcare in Broward County. We also have sites that are being supported by our federal partners. These are federally-supported, state-managed and locally-executed, and all three provide testing for individuals who have the symptoms and are in the advanced ages, and all first responders and healthcare workers that have direct contact with patients, regardless of the presence of symptoms.

Ron DeSantis: (03:50)
So yesterday we were in Miami at Hard Rock Stadium, kind of unveiling what was going to be done, but the beta test was to let all the first responders and healthcare workers go through, so they were able to take samples from 713 first responders or health care workers in kind of the soft opening. Now they’re open and they’re doing good stuff. So that is the City of Miami, the County of Miami-Dade, Florida National Guard, everyone coming together to work on these key issues.

Ron DeSantis: (04:22)
We also had a similar site that’s federally supported in Jacksonville at the Jacksonville Jaguars stadium. Day one was 288 samples. Day two was 141 samples. They could have processed more. The traffic was actually pretty light. Maybe that’s a sign that there’s not as many symptoms in Northeast Florida; let’s hope that. But that’s going to contain and be open and look to process as many tests as we can and, again, that’s the city of Jacksonville, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue, working with the County Health Department and doing a really good job, so I salute them for that.

Ron DeSantis: (04:58)
And then another site is going to be opening on Wednesday in Orange County, at the Orange County Convention Center. It’s going to be a similar setup to what we have in Hard Rock Stadium in Miami and in the Jags’ stadium in Jacksonville. So, there’ll be more information put out about that, but we obviously want to expand access to testing for people in Central Florida.

Ron DeSantis: (05:21)
And I will say that if you look, as we’ve seen more infections, we’ve seen huge increase in testing from what we were doing just a week ago. Part of that is because of our efforts here, but a lot of that is because the hospitals are testing more, there’s more access to different types of labs, and so people across the state are doing that. We’ve been working with hospital systems all across the state to do it, so I want to thank them for all the work that they’ve done. When we put the executive order to stop the elective surgeries, everyone was onboard with that. We’re maintaining, trying to preserve as much personal protective equipment as possible for our healthcare employees, and so all the hospitals get it. We have a situation in Florida where our occupancy, our available beds is actually in good shape. We obviously are planning for contingencies, but part of that is because they’ve really managed this well, and they are looking to see what happens, and they want to be able to handle what happens.

Ron DeSantis: (06:19)
With our nursing homes and ALS, and I want to say most of them have been fantastic… once we started to get more information on this virus early on, you started to get data out of these other countries, it was pretty clear that the people that were most likely to suffer hospitalization or fatalities were people who were elderly and/or had serious underlying medical conditions, and obviously if you had both, you were in a real danger category for it.

Ron DeSantis: (06:47)
And so once that happened, we knew our nursing homes and ALS, the residents there needed to be protective. So we issued very stringent requirements about access to those facilities. Center for Medicaid Services, they followed a few days later and did something similar. Across the state, most of the folks are really working diligently. I mean, they’re taking temperatures, they’re asking where you’ve been, they’re making sure if you have any type of symptom you are not allowed near any of the residents.

Ron DeSantis: (07:17)
We did have one problem, a facility in Broward County, and we’ve got a lot of people on site there policing that. It’s sad that it would come to that because you think you would want to do all you could to protect the residents. But that is something that is very, very important.

Ron DeSantis: (07:32)
We’ve also, with the ALS and nursing homes, we want all nursing homes and ALS throughout the state to have enough personal protective equipment so that any staff member that interacts with a resident at least has one of those respiratory masks. We’d like them to have the gloves and the other stuff, but at least you have that. And so, to begin this effort, in the next 48 hours, the Department of Emergency Management and Department of Health will be sending out the following to facilities throughout the state: almost 60,000 N95 masks, 141,000 procedure masks, almost 27,000 shields, 22,000 gowns and 78,000 gloves. And so, that is something that’s very important, particularly given the demographic that we’re looking to protect against COVID-19.

Ron DeSantis: (08:25)
We’ve seen the numbers; Florida broke the thousand a threshold for positive cases. But I would say, if you look at those numbers, we’re expecting that. We’re expecting to continue to see more. That’s just the nature of this, and partly the nature of, when you’re really expanding testing, you’re going to see more cases. One thing we’ve noticed in the data is, when we started this after the first few weeks, that the number of people that tested positive had a hospitalization rate of almost 40%, so that was very problematic. Now that hospitalization rate is going down; it’s now under 20%. The case fatality rate has gone down. We obviously assume there’s more people that have it who don’t have serious symptoms. And so, those are just data points that we’re tracking.

Ron DeSantis: (09:12)
But clearly, we don’t want anyone to get it; but if you do get it, we want you to be in one of those groups where you’re not going to be at risk of a fatality or serious hospitalization, and that’s what a lot of our efforts are geared toward protecting the most vulnerable.

Ron DeSantis: (09:26)
So we have a couple of folks… well, I want to thank President Fox from University of Florida. When we asked them to help with this, they immediately responded. In fact, they were already doing things to try to help in this fight. We’re proud of our research universities, and this is the type of thing that’s tailor made for them to really make an impact. And I think they’re able to probably do some things that some of the local, state, or even federal agencies are not going to be able to do. And so, I really applaud them for all that they’re doing. We’re proud to have them.

Ron DeSantis: (10:01)
And I also want to thank Jared Moskowitz, our Emergency Management Director. He’s been working tirelessly. We’re going to have huge amounts of supplies coming in on 95 mass over the next few days. Let me tell you, it’s very difficult to get nowadays. There’s a worldwide crush on these things because of this virus. So Jared is in the trenches every day trying to get as many supplies for our healthcare workers as we can. And so, I really want to thank him for his efforts and thank him for helping with the other test sites. So, I’m going to let him come and say a few words and we’ll hear… do we want one of the doctors? Do one of you guys want to say a few words? Okay. So Jared, and then we’ll go…

Speaker 2: (10:44)
Governor, thank you. Thank you to the University of Florida and to the Villages. We’ve been talking about the Villages for several weeks now. In fact, I held a round table with all partners around the state three weeks ago… the Villages, ALS nursing homes… when we started to realize that this was a virus that’s significantly impacted our senior population in a different way. And so, it’s excellent that this is now happening.

Speaker 2: (11:18)
Additionally, I want to thank all the staff here at the Villages, all the vendors here at the Villages, because at the end of the day, by the staff and the vendors here at the Villages by making sure that they take precautions and they go through the screening. That is going to be the best way to prevent COVID-19, the virus, getting into the Villages. And so, it is individual responsibility, but we’re all in this together, so I want to thank them as well.

Speaker 2: (11:44)
As the governor talked about, what we’re working on in the next 48 hours… the state of Florida is working on the largest logistics mission we ever have worked on in States history; larger than any hurricane logistics mission, whether that’s Michael or Irma… this dwarfs that by some fold. We are working logistics 24 hours a day at the warehouse now with the support of the National Guard. We are using both vans, 18 wheelers and aircraft to move lifesaving PPE and collection swabs around this state 24 hours a day. And so, the governor just announced obviously our latest effort, which is really focusing on our nursing homes and ALS, but we are constantly pushing things down to county staging sites, filling those critical mission requests so that can go out to the hospital.

Speaker 2: (12:34)
We are constantly getting roles from the hospitals as far as how many days left they have of PPE, what their daily burn rate is, so that we can constantly keep them ahead of any emergent situation.

Speaker 2: (12:46)
So, we have seven million N95 masks on order. I expect to see the largest shipment of that come in on the 21st with the first million. We have 5 million procedural masks on order. Those are coming in in several hundred thousands. We’ve got about 400,000 in yesterday. I expect a first million… one big order coming in also on the 28th. And so, we are turning the page on PPE, so that is good news for the state of Florida.

Speaker 2: (13:19)
We are also working with vendors on ventilators and the federal government to make sure that we have the required number of ventilators that could possibly need to be used in the state of Florida. So we have started pre-positioning a lot of those ventilators across the state, and we are receiving ventilators literally off the assembly line directly from the manufacturers, as well as getting ventilators pushed to us from the federal government, so we thank our federal partners for their help with that.

Speaker 2: (13:48)
We have field hospitals that we’ve deployed all over the state of Florida. One is on its way to Dade County. One is on its way to Jacksonville. One actually is not too far from the Villages that’s already pre-staged, and one is in Broward County, which is actually being assembled as we speak. It should be up and running in the next couple of days. Right now we don’t see a need for folks to be going to a field hospital, but we want to have that up and running. And so, we’re helping to operate those with over 300 nurses that we have on contracts, as well as our 300 medics in the National Guard. And so, I want to thank the National Guard and the General for all of their efforts.

Speaker 2: (14:28)
Listen, this is a virus that significantly impacts our seniors who are in their golden years in a dramatic way. And so, while it doesn’t seem fair to them that this is happening, and a lot of the rules and regulations and guidance that is being put out may seem to be without compassion, it’s with compassion, which is why the governor is putting those guidance and those requirements in place, because that right now is the best way to protect our senior population, which is the social distance from them, which is to go through the screening. So if we can continue to do that, it’s going to take everybody.

Speaker 2: (15:13)
We’ve been messaging to younger people for the last several weeks now about social distancing and that… there’s feedback out there that COVID ruined their spring break, but you can ruin somebody’s life here at the Villages if you don’t social distance from our elderly population. If you’re not feeling well, stay home. You should be in your home anyway. There’s no reason right now to be going to events, even if that event is going on, which would be in contradiction to the governor’s instruction. So please heed the warnings, listen to the guidance, do the screening.

Speaker 2: (15:47)
If you have a neighbor that’s elderly and you’re worried about their supplies, call them. See what they need, drop the supplies outside their door. You could be a hero by making sure that we’re taking care of the elderly. And so, Governor, thank you. President Fox, thank you.

President Fox: (16:03)
I want to give my sincere thanks to Governor DeSantis for suggesting this collaboration that you all see behind us between the Villages and the University of Florida. One of the benefits of having a research-intensive university in our state, and one of the best in the nation, is indeed that we have an academic health center that not only conducts research, not only educates future doctors and nurses, but also actually makes a difference in the lives of people of our state. We have on our staff and a member of our faculty, some of the very best in the area of infectious disease and global health. And with us today is indeed the faculty member, the doctor, who is one of those world leaders and he’s overseeing what you see behind us.

President Fox: (16:44)
So I’d like to invite to the podium Dr. Lauzardo. Dr. Lauzardo.

Lauzardo: (16:50)
Thank you very much everyone, and thank you , again, to Dr… I just made you a doctor, Governor… to Governor DeSantis and the rest of you for having us here.

Lauzardo: (16:58)
UF Health is very proud to be a part of this community and to serve the community and serve Florida, in general. What we’re doing here today I think is very, very important. Not only are we screening people that meet the CDC criteria, but we’re also doing a research study that’s actually looking at what we call asymptomatic carriage of virus. Now that’s a doctor term to just describe the fact that some people… it has been described that some people have the virus, but don’t really show any symptoms. It’s been described in young individuals, but really not in older communities. So our research here today is going to help us understand a lot more about what’s going on with transmission, as well as meeting those clinical needs that we have.

Lauzardo: (17:35)
There are significant supply chain problems. You’ve heard a lot about that already. You’ve heard a lot of the plans, and people are working on fixing that. We’re doing our best to work around those as much as we can to make as many tests as possible available to those, while prioritizing those that are at the most need. So we’re very proud to be part of this [inaudible 00:17:51] effort and we will stick with the community here and work as hard as we can to be part of the community and to help everyone as possible. Thank you all very much.

Ron DeSantis: (18:00)
Well thanks again, UF Health and Shands. We really appreciate all you guys, and I want to thank the Villages. I saw Gary Lester here. This is a community that is very, very active, and they’ve had to really change a lot of how they do events. I know they don’t do inside events, they don’t do groups anymore. You still see people on the golf course because they do social distancing golf where everyone’s in their own cart and you don’t shake hands or touch the flag stick. So I think that this community has really responded and really just done a lot of things to protect themselves, so we obviously want to be helpful in that because we understand that we really appreciate our seniors, particularly all these active seniors who are really having some great times here. We want to get everyone protected, get past this period, and then let everyone enjoy Florida’s friendliest hometown to the hilt again.

Ron DeSantis: (18:53)
And with that, I’m happy to take some questions.

Speaker 5: (18:59)
[inaudible]

Ron DeSantis: (19:00)
No, no. Yeah, anyone in the area. Obviously most people who live in this area are affiliated with the Villages, but you go online, you can go… if you’re really outside the Villages, you’re still eligible.

Ron DeSantis: (19:15)
So we’re looking at different options. So what we’ve done in Florida is, we’ve done a lot of statewide… what they call mitigation measures. So you have bars, all these places, closed; health clubs… and that’s applying statewide. And we still have in Florida… we got 20 counties with zero infections, and I think about 26 that have two, three, five, seven-type infection. It doesn’t mean… that can obviously change, but in those counties, we really want them people to get tested so they can be isolated, and hopefully we can prevent outbreaks in some of those areas.

Ron DeSantis: (19:50)
Some of the areas that we’ve had more significant… there’ve been more stringent mitigation measures. Ivan posts some in South Florida in conjunction with Broward County, and then Broward and Dade, in conjunction with my office, have done some things. So in South Florida, you have pretty much down to just essential operations. So we’ll look at how that would apply statewide in terms of additional measures, but that’s one of the reasons why we wanted the testing, so that we’re actually doing this on good data. There’s a lot of folks out there who are doing the right thing, and some of these things, I don’t want to put somebody in a position where some type of an order, if they can comply, then they’re going to suffer financial catastrophe, health problems. So there’s a whole chain reaction that could go to some of this stuff.

Ron DeSantis: (20:35)
And I’m also mindful, if you look at what happened in New York, when they did the stay at home order, what did people do? Well, a lot of people fled the city, and they’re going to stay with their parents or they’re flying… we’re huge amounts of people flying in. We’re looking at how to address those flights. I talked to the president last night about that. So for every action, there’s a reaction. So we’re going to consider what would make sense for Florida. I do think we’ll end up doing some more stuff very soon.

Ron DeSantis: (21:03)
But at the end of the day, you’re going to have a group of people who are not going to comply and are going to put themselves first. And the fewer number of those there are, the better off we’ll be. And there’s people here in the Villages, and most of the people throughout the state are seniors; you don’t need any mandates. They will do what’s recommended. They will protect themselves. I think you have another class of people who are just selfish. You shut down the bar, they go to a house party. You have no beach, so they go to a sandbar, which is technically not the beach.

Ron DeSantis: (21:35)
And so I would just say for those folks, you need to cool it and let’s get through this, because the more stuff you’re doing, the more difficult and longer that this may go. And I think that if we take good action now, then we’ll probably be going to be better off, even in the immediate short-term. But man, you have some folks… it’s like a water balloon; you pose a restriction, and water goes somewhere else, and they’re always looking to do whatever they can to game the system.

Ron DeSantis: (22:02)
Yes, sir.

Speaker 5: (22:04)
[inaudible]

Ron DeSantis: (22:04)
No, they were all supposed to go out at the same time. When FEMA sends this out, they’ll say it’s coming. Where? You could track a shipment from Amazon to your house better than we can track some of this stuff. So, it’s kind of in the ether. We kind of wait for it, and then all of a sudden it shows up on the doorstep of wherever it’s going to go. So sometimes those go earlier, sometimes they don’t. So it wasn’t, we diverted; it was, we’re waiting for all the resources to go. I think the Jacksonville one went first. The supplies got there; then, the Miami one, and then the Orlando stuff.

Ron DeSantis: (22:49)
So, I’ve told them as soon as you can get it up and running, get it up and running, because I think people here will appreciate it. I was able to talk to the CEO over at Orlando Health, and they’ve really ramped up their testing, and even amongst people who have the greatest symptoms… he said it’s like out of 50 people-

Speaker 6: (23:24)
Sir, if you go down there, you can’t come back up this way. You have to go in the elevator. Well, this is the way it is. I’m sorry, this is where it is right here, the press conference, so you can stand over here or you can stay back over there by the elevators.