Mar 24, 2020
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Coronavirus Briefing Transcript March 24
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis gave an update on COVID-19 for the state today. Read the full transcript of his press conference speech here.
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Ron DeSantis: (00:00)
… in place order was issued. You started having people flood out of New York City, including taking hundreds of flights from the New York City area, direct flights to the state of Florida. That obviously is a big problem because that’s the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the entire world right now. And so those are the folks who should be staying in home and sheltering in place. Instead, they’re seeding in different communities throughout the United States, including here in Florida.
Ron DeSantis: (00:27)
So yesterday we mandated the isolation of all individuals that fly to Florida from the New York City area. And we had the Florida National Guard in place at a number of our airports like Miami International in Fort Lauderdale. And so when the individuals come in, they’re asked to provide information to the guardsman, they receive the information about what they need to do in order to self isolate. They have contact information on who to contact should they be symptomatic. And we are going to continue to do that. We’ll probably expand that into some of the smaller airports, but certainly the major airports that get the most traffic from New York City were covered. And then what we’ll do is we’ll take that information and we will share it with some of the local communities so that they can make sure that they’re keeping an eye on folks who very well may be infected.
Ron DeSantis: (01:17)
So that I think was a smart thing to do. But I also know, I was talking with some members of the President’s task force, including Dr. Burks, and one of the fears that I think they’ve had is … They were very complimentary about things Florida’s done, particularly our county health departments who’ve worked very hard from the beginning of this to help keep COVID-19 in check. But you have all these mitigation efforts going. You have all these things that we’ve put in place at the state level for the President’s 15 day to stop the spread. You have local governments who’ve done even more stringent that we’ve worked with like Broward and Palm Beach and Miami Dade. And a lot of people are having to sacrifice a lot of things to try to get this right.
Ron DeSantis: (02:02)
The problem is is that this virus was likely circulating in New York City for three to four weeks. And so you see a number of the people that are infected. The problem for Florida is we have a lot of interaction back and forth between the New York City area and the state of Florida. And so you’ve had people probably unwittingly at the time be there within the last couple of weeks and then come to Florida. And so today I’m going to be signing an additional order. It will require two things. One, anybody traveling from the New York City area to the state of Florida or who has traveled in the last three weeks is going to need to self isolate and they’re going to need to report the contacts that they’ve had, any close contacts with anybody in the state of Florida and mainly notifying the people they’ve been in contact with.
Ron DeSantis: (02:54)
So we think that that’s important because you may have had someone who got back 10 days ago, maybe they’ve not even shown symptoms, but they could be infected. And if they’re working with folks in Florida or interacting with them in Florida, that is a way that this virus can spread. And so this is important because after all the hard work, we don’t want it to now get seeded as people flee kind of the hot zone. I think it’s unfair that if people are told to stay in place and then they’re not following that order, meanwhile you got people in towns like Youngstown, Ohio, Memphis, Tennessee, all over the country, people are kind of told to stay in their home and they’re following the rules. And yet you have folks now coming from the hottest of the hot zones filtering out into the United States. So we’re doing something about that in Florida and I think that that’s something that’s appropriate.
Ron DeSantis: (03:45)
We’re also going to be issuing, our Surgeon General here in Florida, Dr. Rivkees, is going to be issuing another health advisory. He’s going to be advising that all individuals aged 65 or older are encouraged to stay at home for the next 14 days to minimize their exposure. As we’ve seen with this virus, the folks who are 65 and plus are the ones that have the best chance to suffer a negative outcome. That’s disproportionately so when you talk about fatalities. So we want to make sure that those folks are protected. I think the message has been for us from the beginning that if you are in that category, avoid crowds, avoid close contact. You should assume that anyone you may come in contact with could be infected. So make sure you keep that safe, appropriate six foot distance or more. Obviously the easiest way to do that is to just simply stay at home as much as possible.
Ron DeSantis: (04:41)
I’d also say, in the nursing homes we’ve put in a lot of effort to make sure these nursing homes had been protected and the assisted living facilities. Many of them are doing a really good job. We’ve had one problem in Broward and another problem in Duvall County. We are getting word that there are few others around the state that there haven’t been incidents yet, but haven’t rigorously put in the regulations that we issued very early on. And I just want to reiterate, if you are somebody operating one of those facilities, how important it is that you’re protecting the senior citizens in your facilities. I mean, this is the time you’ve got to stand up and make sure that you’re taking all necessary precautions.
Ron DeSantis: (05:21)
The health advisory will apply to 65 plus. It will also apply to those regardless of age that has a serious underlying medical condition. And some of those conditions are enumerated like chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immunocompromisation, including those in cancer treatment, and severe obesity. So I think that that’s important as well because as we’ve seen, the folks who may be under 65 who have suffered real serious hospitalizations or even death have been people that usually have had a serious underlying medical condition.
Ron DeSantis: (05:59)
And then finally we want to expand on some of what we’ve done with some of these large groups. We banned any of these groups from beaches, but we didn’t necessarily do that for things like town squares or private residences. So I’m going to expand that guidance. So consistent with what the CDC says, you should not have any social group of 10 people or more. So that means just because it’s a private residence, you should not right now be having 50 people for a party. I mean, you see these images around the country, states that are on lockdowns, they’re having these massive block parties in places like California. For us here, we want to respect that guidance. We’ll end up being safer in the long run if we do. So that guidance would be for any type of social or recreational group, less than 10. Otherwise it will violate the directive.
Ron DeSantis: (06:52)
And then we’ll also direct that, and I know businesses have worked to do this and we’ve worked with them to do it, but we really need all businesses, any nonessential business, to be promoting telecommuting. I think the goal should be to have at least 50% of your workforce who is telecommuting. That will help reduce density in the workplace and ultimately help keep people safe.
Ron DeSantis: (07:16)
So those are our continuing efforts to be able to keep people safe here in the state of Florida. I want to thank all the folks in the medical profession who are working very hard. We are pushing out more and more PPE as we get it. We’ve put out a lot of the N95 masks. We’re putting out more and more every day and we’re going to continue to do that because we know how important it is. We just want folks to be able to, to stay safe. Now’s the time to take care of yourself, stay away from crowds, stay at home as much as you can and do the right things for yourself and your community. So with that, happy to take a few questions.
Speaker 2: (07:54)
How’s the state going to enforce the self isolation for the people from the Tristate area?
Ron DeSantis: (07:58)
So that’s why we’re taking the information. So they will have to provide a residence that they will be self isolating in and obviously you would be able to follow up accordingly. So I think most folks understand that they need to do this and I think most folks are going to be compliant. But there is teeth in this to be able to hold someone accountable if they don’t.
Speaker 2: (08:22)
So as a former Northeasterner and I go back pretty much every year, but I’ve never been to the Northeast, back and forth to Florida without stopping in Atlanta. So how are you dealing with those travelers that are coming in?
Ron DeSantis: (08:38)
No. So we’re looking at that yet. Any initial New York destination to go through. But I think what happened was that’s generally true, you’d have to do it. But what happened was once this whole epidemic really started to flare and things started shutting down, the flights really went down. I mean, there were not a lot of flights. And then what happened was when the shelter in place order was issued in New York, the flights, because there was a huge demand. So they went from doing 20 flights to Florida to doing 120, then 160, and then yesterday they did 197 flights. Now that’s now going back down and obviously we’re going to have people there to be able to police that. But this was an immediate response to the shelter in place order.
Ron DeSantis: (09:24)
And that’s part of the challenge. I mean, these measures have never been done in modern American society like this. When they’re put in place, the question is, is what then happens after that? Are people just going 100% comply? Most of the time people will change behavior and do something. And so this was an example. When that order came down, people started really flying and dispersing across and probably many of them drove different places as well. But those flights all of a sudden became the hottest ticket. And there was just an inordinate amount of them. It is mostly South Florida, but I would say we saw 30 to 40 flights a couple of days direct to Orlando. And so we’ll make sure we’ll work with those folks as well.
Speaker 2: (10:07)
Governor, you had conversations with the incoming and outgoing legislative leadership today according to your schedule. Do you plan on bringing the legislature back? Or can you share more with [inaudible 00:10:19]?
Ron DeSantis: (10:18)
I think it was just a general update. I mean, I gave him the update that we were going to be doing the executive order. I told him there was a concern from the White House task force and then obviously in my administration about how people may be fleeing the hot zone and bringing the virus to Florida. And they agreed and they agreed with the measures. We’ve all just, I think agreed to say let’s just get through this. We’ll get through the 15 days. There’ll be some type of pivot. We’ll look to see what happens there. I am somebody that believes that it’s not really a … I mean, it will be a negative on the economy, but it’s not like you’re snapping into a recession because something happened with business. I mean it’s kind of just the economy just kind of stopped for a little bit. And the question is can we just get it to start and get going. We’ll see what that looks like.
Ron DeSantis: (11:05)
I want to get back as soon as possible because I think some of the effects of these people who have been put out of work and who’ve been laid off, no one’s really talking about them. But those are folks who were doing the right thing and now they’re in situations where their family’s future may be in jeopardy. And so we’ve got to keep them in mind. But I will tell you, these unemployment numbers, I mean, we would typically get … As you know, our unemployment rate in Florida the last time before this happened was 2.8%. We would get 250, 500, 1000. It would vary kind of unemployment claims every day. These numbers we’ve seen lately, 21,000 unemployment claims yesterday, 18,000 the day before, on March 20th another 21,000. So this is a huge increase and it just shows you how so many people have been dislocated. We’re working on getting them the relief. We want the federal government to do stuff as well. But man, that’s not only going to have an economic cost, that will have a health cost unless we work hard to remedy that as soon as possible.
Speaker 2: (12:11)
The President wants to reopen the nation by Easter. That’s what he’s saying now. Is that aligned with your timeline for the state of Florida?
Ron DeSantis: (12:18)
Well, we’re going to really work with the President and see what his team puts together. My view on just looking at this, it seems like you have some people that say, “Oh, this virus as much to do about nothing. Don’t even do anything.” And I was never in that camp cause I said back in January it was a serious public health threat. Then you have some other people say, “We can’t do anything. We’ve just got to lock down and just maybe nine months or whatever.” And I think both of those are false choices. I mean, clearly we’ve got to do something about the virus and there’s no way a nine months shutdown would possibly be sustainable.
Ron DeSantis: (12:51)
So I think the question is going to be let’s work to blunt the force of the virus. Let’s protect those folks who could be most in jeopardy of really negative health impacts. But let’s also get society functioning so that the overall public health is better because when people are employed and they’re able to put food on the table for their family, that’s better. I really worry about suicide, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, child abuse if this is allowed to go for months and months on end with nothing.
Ron DeSantis: (13:25)
I think you can do this in a way that is going to really continue to let us make progress on the virus but will also allow the society to function again. And here’s the thing. People have changed their behavior with this now. With the flu, influenza kills people every year. Most people don’t even get a flu shot. Most people shake hands. They don’t do any of that stuff. Now people are conscious about that. They are conscious about handshake, they’re conscious about what they touch. They’re more religious about washing their hands. And that really has a huge impact across society. I think you will see, and the flu season’s kind of at an end, but I think as these keep up, I think you’re going to see less influenza up because I think people will be actually taking the proper precautions.
Speaker 2: (14:11)
Governor, some state workers have been complaining about still being required to go into work. What are your thoughts on potentially moving some of them to work at home and …
Ron DeSantis: (14:20)
We’ve told the agency heads push as many people to work from home as you can. We think that that’s a good policy. I know many agencies have done it. We clearly have a need for essential workers, particularly in the public health sphere and the emergency management. So we’re going to need to have their hands on deck, but certainly any of the non-essential, we would say keep as many homes as you can and try to reduce any density in the workforce.
Speaker 2: (14:47)
Governor, what would you say to the four Democratic state senators who called for you to impose a statewide ban?
Ron DeSantis: (14:53)
Well look, I mean we worked with, and I was talking to the mayor of Miami Beach this morning about we have a big diverse state. The virus is impacting parts much differently. So let’s have tailored approaches, surgical approaches that are going to work best for those regions. And so we’ve worked with Palm Beach and Broward to impose more significant mitigation measures. We’ve been working in consultation with Mayor Jimenez who’s doing a great job, Mayor Suarez. And so you have that area which is fighting this a little bit different than saying Northwest Florida or some of the other places in the state, which we’re still testing, identifying, but we’re containing because you haven’t had widespread community spreading of the virus.
Ron DeSantis: (15:36)
And so I think that that’s a more prudent approach because these blunt measures, you wouldn’t want to do them on a community where the virus hasn’t spread through the community. Because I think everyone understands there’s a lot of negative impact from those blunt measures. I mean, people are going to go out of business, people are going to lose their jobs. There’s going to be upheavals in their lives. And that is something that we should not do flippantly. And so some of the measures have been tough and we’ve put in … Everything that CDC has said I’ve put in statewide. Remember the CDC has not said do a statewide lockdown. And I also look at some of these other states that have done it and I see massive noncompliance. I’m not even sure how effective it is. I mean, if you’re doing a big block party in California during a lockdown, wouldn’t it be better just go to work? I mean, you’re probably going to transmit the virus less in the office than you are with a bunch of drunk idiots in a block party, which everyone having a good time.
Ron DeSantis: (16:32)
So I just think you’ve got to think these things through. But we’ve been willing to work with any of the local communities. But I think it’s been a surgical approach. It’s been an approach that’s been in consultation with these folks. Because they understand what’s going on in their communities and I think we can tailor it accordingly. But I definitely think some of the measures that have been done, even the statewide, when they have they ever been done in Florida before? I mean, this is really something that we haven’t seen in a long time. And some people think that the governor should just be a dictator and just order everyone in prison in their homes. And I don’t think that would be an effective approach, but it’s certainly not warranted in certain parts of the state. So everyone’s doing their part and I think that’s going to be the better approach.
Speaker 3: (17:14)
We have time for two more questions.
Speaker 2: (17:17)
Governor, I’m going to get a paycheck next week. You’re a state worker. You might actually get a raise. We’ve given to charity. We’re trying to help people in this time of need. Where would you recommend people spend the resources if they have them to do that? And have you personally made charitable contributions?
Ron DeSantis: (17:37)
So I think you need to support local businesses. And so for example, there’s no in dining restaurants per the CDC’s guidance. And so they are open for takeout and people will go in and grab that and do it. Sometimes there’s a longer line in the takeout, which is more dangerous than if you sat people apart, but that’s another story. But at the end of the day, you are not going to be able, particularly the mom and pops, you’re not going to be able, and a business that already runs on thin margins, just be able to do that indefinitely. So some of them are just barely staying afloat. Some of them may not be able to stay afloat.
Ron DeSantis: (18:10)
So what I would say is buy a gift certificate from some of these places, order food from some of these places. Understand that they are being negatively impacted through no fault of their own. They’re taking a major financial hit for the health and safety of the rest of society. So anything you can do to help with that I think would be good. And I’m going to look at what we can do both personally, but I think also, as elected officials, the parties need to be giving. So I’m going to be pushing the state party to do some stuff. And then for the emergency management, they bring food for the workers and I’ve said, “You better make sure you’re helping these local businesses here in Tallahassee.” So we’ve got some of these that we know and we want to support them. Yep?
Speaker 4: (18:54)
What do we know about this cruise ship that’s heading for Port Everglades that reportedly has a bunch of sick people on it?
Ron DeSantis: (19:01)
Well, so if there’s sick people, obviously anybody that’s infected, it’s not going to be appropriate to release them. As you know, we don’t run the ports. That’s a local thing. Our guidance has been you can’t release a cruise ship if somebody has tested positive for COVID-19. Somebody simply has flu like symptoms, you’re going to need to keep them on the ship until we can determine whether you have it or not. And I think that that’s the only a reasonable thing to do.
Speaker 4: (19:26)
Thank you, governor.
Ron DeSantis: (19:26)
Speaker 5: (20:37)
[inaudible 00:20:37] the actual reach of COVID-19 and informs us how we can potentially isolate the outbreak even as we work to flatten the curve. In the words of the Director General of the World Health Organization, you cannot fight the fire blindfolded.