Mar 27, 2020

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript March 27

Florida Coronavirus Update March 27
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript March 27

Florida governor Ron DeSantis provided a press briefing on March 27 for COVID-19 in the state. He said he is adding New Orleans and other areas of Louisiana to a list of COVID-19 hotspots, requiring travelers from the state to self-isolate if they come to Florida. Read the full transcript here on Rev.com.

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Ron DeSantis: (00:00)
Reduction in air traffic from the New York City area to the state of Florida, particularly the number of passengers that are on a lot of these aircraft. And I’m happy to report, Florida’s also led the way on this because the state of Texas also implemented something very similar to what we did. We were happy about that and all we’re trying to do is keep our residents here safe. If you’re coming from one of the epicenters, we probably think you should follow the directions of your state and local officials and if they’re telling you to shelter in place, then do that. But don’t come here because we’re trying to protect our folks. Once we did the New York order, we got a lot of interest in, or actually I had people ask me in the Florida panhandle about how we could do something similar given what’s going on in New Orleans.

Ron DeSantis: (00:46)
There’s a fear that as New Orleans becomes more of a hot spot that you could have an influx of people into the Florida panhandle from Louisiana. I will be adding to my New York executive order. We will be requiring the same for travelers from New Orleans, Louisiana and other parts of Louisiana to self isolate for 14 days. We are going to be authorizing the use of checkpoints on the roads coming into Florida for the counties and the Florida Highway Patrol. And again, this is just a way to make sure that we’re keeping people safe. Some of these areas, I mean New Orleans is obviously got a lot of problems that may not be quite as widespread as New York City, but I think there was a concern in the panhandle that this could impact them. They’re working hard to keep their rates low so we don’t want to add any problems for them.

Ron DeSantis: (01:39)
We’re empowering them to do that. And that will not apply to any of the commercial transportation because there’s a lot of key things that are being brought to Florida and to other states. That’s not going to be impacted. Another thing that kind of followed from that was we’re going to suspend for two weeks, any vacation, new vacation rentals in the state of Florida. Again, the concern is people in some of these hotspots wanting to then come here, now’s not really the time to do that. The vacation rentals will be suspended for two weeks. If you’re in one now, then finish and go home. But for any new Reynolds, there’s going to be a suspension on that and we appreciate the assistance of people. Again, we’re just trying to keep people safe.

Ron DeSantis: (02:21)
One of our main priorities has been to expand testing in the state of Florida. And if you look at our numbers, you’re now seeing many, many more tests than were done just a week and a half ago. In fact, last week at this time, just from the sites that we’ve helped stand up, the Broward site, some of the sites, Miami Dade, Jacksonville, Orange County, you’ve done close to 10,000 tests just on those sites that the state of Florida was leading on. And we’ve seen many more thousand done throughout the state of Florida. Our next site that we are going to be sending national guard to is going to be in Palm Beach County. If you look at the numbers in the state of Florida, Dade and Broward, far and away the top two counties for infections. Palm Beach is kind of a distant third. But if you look at Palm Beach’s numbers, they have not had nearly the amount of testing that Dade and Broward have had.

Ron DeSantis: (03:14)
I think Dade and Broward have had between five and 6,000 tests returned already and there’s probably thousands of more outstanding right now. Palm Beach, I think they’ve had probably about 1500 tests that have come back. And again, there’s probably more outstanding, but I think it’s important to expand the testing there so that we can get a better sense of what’s going on. And I also think unfortunately, the Southern Florida counties are probably going to be the primary landing spot for a lot of the New York influx that has happened. And so we’ve just going to have to contend with that, hopefully that you don’t see the virus being seeded in any of those Florida communities. But the reality is, we’ve got to be prepared. The guard is going to work to set that up. We’re going to work in conjunction with Palm Beach County and we’ll have an announcement on the exact time and location of that.

Ron DeSantis: (04:00)
That’s still under consideration, but I directed the emergency management folks that you need to get this up and running as soon as possible and I directed the national guard to do the same. We’re also beefing up supplies. As soon as we get this stuff here or in Orlando, we’re getting it out. All this stuff has such short supply around the world and around our country, but particularly involving these collection swabs to take the samples, as soon as we get them, we push them out. We’ll be pushing out 1,000 swabs to Miami Dade, another 1,000 swabs to Broward, another 1,000 swabs to Hillsborough. Dade and Broward obviously have the most infections. They’ve also had by far the most testing. Hillsborough is, I think, behind Palm beach. They’ve had decent amount, but I think we want to help them have even more testing. That is going to go and those will be the four counties between Palm Beach and the other three that are leading the state in terms of infection.

Ron DeSantis: (04:55)
We want to work hard to get as much information, isolate as many people who may be infected as possible. We’re also going to direct the Department of Children and Families to submit a federal waiver to temporarily increase SNAP recipients benefit amounts to the maximum monthly allotment. That’ll increase the benefit from a family of four for $449 a month to $509 a month. Tat will impact hundreds of thousands of Floridians in a very difficult time. This week, I’m directing the Florida Department of Revenue to delay the tax filing deadline. I think they’ve done that for property taxes and sales and use taxes for businesses adversely affected by COVID 19. New dates on the sales and use tax is April 30th, property taxes now due April 15th. Please email covid19taxhelp@floridarevenue.com with any questions.

Ron DeSantis: (05:55)
When these situations happen and we see it with hurricanes as well, there’s always seems to be people who want to use the unfortunate circumstances someone finds themselves in for their own personal gain or business gain. And unfortunately we’re seeing that here with this virus. We’ve seen reports of a hospital in the city of Hialeah and Miami Dade that’s charging individuals $150 to get tested for COVID 19, many of these are low income individuals. I just want to say that is not acceptable here in the state of Florida. The President has made clear the relief bill has had, the tests are free and we don’t want to put individuals in any more difficult circumstances than they already are in a time of angst. I’m going to ask Attorney General Moody to immediately investigate this hospital for price gouging. And I hope if there’s a way to hold the accountable that it will, but that is not the way we want people operating right now here in the state of Florida.

Ron DeSantis: (06:57)
Also, we’ve received reports from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, local governments, that many people continue to violate social distancing requirements. You you need to be in groups of 10 or less. But what they’re doing is they’re tying all these boats together and then having large group parties. I’m directing FWC to issue an emergency order to enforce the social distancing rules on the waterways. And when you’re looking at the COVID 19, having close contact with people or being in large crowds, I mean that’s really the two ways that you’re most likely to transmit or attract the virus and so we can’t be having these large crowds. That’s something that FWC is going to do and I really look forward to what they’re able to get done there.

Ron DeSantis: (07:49)
Our testing, as you look and see the different test results as they come in, it’s important to look at that against the backdrop of a really serious increase in testing. If you go back and look where we were just a week and a half ago, the number of tests that were being done a day to where we are now, that’s a huge sea change. Some of these positive tests, you go back, I don’t even think there was a positive test in Miami Dade County and the month of February. I have a hard time believing that there was no coronavirus in February. I mean, I think that this has been here. Some of this is just identifying what may have already been out there, but I think it’s the right thing to do and we’re able to get a better handle on exactly how much this has spread in various communities.

Ron DeSantis: (08:34)
Also, we are looking at and always monitoring the available hospital beds in the state of Florida. We’ve got about 19,300 beds available in the state of Florida and over 2000 adult ICU beds. There’s also pediatric ICU beds, about 234. That’s just something people … When they talk about flattening the curve, the flatten the curve really doesn’t mean will fewer people will end up getting infected. I mean, the theory behind that is that certain amount of people are going to get infected no matter what you do. If you flatten it out, you spread it out over a longer time and then the healthcare system is better able to cope with whatever happens. And so for the bed availability and then the other contingency plans, that is obviously something that we’re looking at, but we have not yet seen any mad rush to take up these beds yet. We’re going to continue to work hard and hopefully be able to blunt that. But I think you need to be prepared in any event.

Ron DeSantis: (09:37)
Final thing, I’d just say, remember the basic things that, that we’ve talked about. One of the main points of our response has been to protect the elderly and protect people with underlying medical conditions because they’re the ones, overwhelmingly, who suffer the worst under this virus. And so the surgeon general has issued the advisory statewide for people 65 and plus, or for people with serious underlying condition to stay at home and to avoid crowds and to be cognizant about who you’re coming in contact with. If those folks are able to heed that advisory, then that’s going to make it much easier for us to be able to prevent bad outcomes for people in the state of Florida. So very, very important.

Ron DeSantis: (10:26)
But I think at the end of the day, this is stuff that a lot of people have been working very hard on. We’re working with people throughout the state on the local level, working with the federal government. I spoke with the President yesterday and I had a good conversation and I know he really wants to help Florida. Of course, most of the stuff’s going in New York right now, but we do think that Florida deserves that to have some additional support and he does as well. So I appreciate that from him. And with that, take some questions.

Speaker 2: (10:52)
Could you be more specific about where these checkpoints might be and how they might be handled? Would it be I10?

Ron DeSantis: (10:59)
Probably. I think so, yeah. I mean look, it’s whatever would be the main thoroughfares to come in from other parts of the Gulf coast. I think what it’ll end up being is there’ll probably be a diversion for folks with the certain license plates. You register just like we’re doing at the airports. If you blow through the checkpoint, then obviously they’d be able to pull you over. But look, I think that just having that there, I think just lets people know that we’re serious about keeping Floridians safe. When we did that for the airlines, it has made a very positive impact and I think that you’re seeing fewer people now pour in from some of the hot zones, which is a good thing.

Speaker 3: (11:37)
Governor, a group of labor leaders sent you a letter, I believe yesterday asking for changes, fairly substantial changes in the unemployment compensation system in Florida; extending the length of benefits from 12 to 26 weeks. They’d also like to shift the burden of proof from the employee to the employer. Have you taken a look at that and where might you stand?

Ron DeSantis: (11:57)
So I have not looked at it, but I will. I have said publicly on some of the things with unemployment compensation such as searching for jobs. This is not a situation. I mean people can search for them, obviously, you’ve had a major jolt, especially in certain industries, a lot of low and moderate wage employees have really suffered a lot. We don’t want to compound that. And so if there are things that I can do to make it more streamlined, dispense with them having to search for additional jobs when the jobs just aren’t there, so they can get relief in their pockets. We want to do that.

Ron DeSantis: (12:32)
We’ll look at everything. We also are … My staff, as well as the staff in the legislature, are looking at all the details of this big relief bill that’s being passed. I mean really there’ve been three different bills. The first one was mostly health, second one had some … We’re looking through all of that to try to see how that affects the state of Florida and obviously anything that can help our residents, we want to make them aware of it so that they can help themselves and their family. Yes, sir.

Speaker 4: (12:58)
Governor, do we have any idea of how many healthcare workers might be infected by COVID 19 and whether or not that’s putting a stress on the workforce?

Ron DeSantis: (13:07)
What I can tell you is some of the testing results that you’re seeing out of our major test sites do have a lot of the healthcare workers and first responders going through. Sometimes you’ll look at and you get a batch and there’ll be, the positives, will be pretty low in terms of the percentage, which is a good thing, but part of that I think is some of those tests are precautionary tests to see. I don’t know how many of them have tested positive. I don’t think it’s been a lot that have come through our system. Obviously testing positive is an issue. But then with the healthcare workers, I mean if they’re even exposed to it then they have to self isolate. And so that’s a big problem because they would self isolate and then other people they’ve been in contact with will self isolate.

Ron DeSantis: (13:48)
You get underhanded … Yeah, you’ll be underhanded very quickly in a hospital situation if that happens. And so that’s why one of the number one things we’ve been stressing in terms of what we want to pay for, get as many supplies, involves this PPE. Jerrod’s done a good job. We do have hundreds of thousands of masks that have gone out. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of more, I think he said within the next week or so, we should be over a million, maybe 2 million in terms of what’s coming in and then what can be pushed out. Very, very important that they have enough PPE and that’s going to be one of our priorities.

Speaker 5: (14:22)
One of the firefighters in Miami Dade did confirm, was positive for the coronavirus and then two others are isolated. Safe fire marshal Jimmy [inaudible 00:14:32] said that there’s nothing expediting their tests. Are you aware and are you going to try to get firefighters tests expedited and then they’re necessary PPE?

Ron DeSantis: (14:43)
So here’s. It I want every test expedite and I would love to have 24 hour turnaround. The problem is, is I mean, you see across the country the tests are going up and so all this is being sent mostly to commercial labs. And so the commercial labs are getting this. What I was able to do today is I had a conversation with a business leader who has a different lab company, apart from Lab Corp and Quest. So I had Jarrod reach out. So we’re looking actively at that to see are there any other avenues where we could do high throughput testing. because we have different labs around the state that we can send stuff to, but a lot of them could do a hundred at a time. And if you’re running a test site and you’re having 700 people go through four or five different sites, I mean the a hundred is fine, but you really need a place where you can send a thousand or 1500, so we’re working on doing that.

Ron DeSantis: (15:33)
But at the federal sites we have, they limit us to 250 samples on the federal contract for the samples. So that is something that we’ve had to overcome at the Broward site, which we totally run with the guard. We send a bunch of stuff in. But I think it’s just the reality that there’s a crush of this around the country and these commercial labs have increased their capability. And if I could guarantee, if I could pay a little more to get them all back within 24, I would do it. But I don’t know that that is something given what’s happening, that it’s just really, really tough.

Speaker 6: (16:05)
Governor, Chief Justice [inaudible 00:16:06] put out an order regarding the courts earlier this week. And there’s a section of it that’s causing a little bit of confusion on about whether or not the [inaudible 00:16:17] can do evictions, carry them out. Have you seen that? And then have you given any other more thought to [inaudible 00:16:25] on evictions, rent, payments, mortgages, considering the first of the month is next Wednesday?

Ron DeSantis: (16:29)
Yeah, I mean, we thought the court may address it, so we wanted to give them a chance. I mean, I’ve supported a moratorium on evictions. I think quite frankly, the time to evict someone right now, you’re probably not bringing in a lot of new tenants just given the uncertainty of the situation. I think that that’s appropriate. I haven’t looked to see what he did. If that’s not clear enough and I need to do something then I’ll definitely take a look at it. Yes, sir.

Speaker 7: (16:55)
We’ve heard some accounts that prison guards who are showing symptoms but may not test negative, are being sent home and are being required to use their vacation time or their paid time off for that time that they’re not working. Does that seem reasonable to you or acceptable?

Ron DeSantis: (17:12)
Well, I mean, I don’t know if those reports are true. So you should just ask Secretary Inch. I know he’s done a lot to make precautions for these folks. He’s done a lot in our corrections and I think he’s a somebody that is very reasonable guy. I would talk to him and see whether that’s true or not. Yes, sir.

Speaker 8: (17:28)
Do you have a handle on when the unemployment system might be up and running at increased capacity? There are a lot of people who tried to apply this week, probably-

Ron DeSantis: (17:38)
Here’s what I would say. Yeah, no, I get it. I told Ken, do what you got to do. Here’s the issue. If you look nationwide, and Florida’s not necessarily the same in everything, but if you look nationwide at unemployment compensation spikes during really bad economic times, like the 2008 crash, and you see how much it goes up. What has happened in the last week dwarfs that. I think the financial crisis, I think the largest jobless claims was like 600,000, 700, somewhere in that range. I think it was about 600,000. We did 3.1 million nationwide. And so you’re talking about something that has never been seen before. No one would have planned for like most of a lot of the economy to just stop.

Ron DeSantis: (18:23)
We’re going to get more people in there, but it’s the type of shock to the system that it was not something. If your unemployment system would be able to handle even the great recession, I don’t know that many people would have predicted that it would be three to four times as much in terms of the number of claims. It’s something that we’re working on, but it is going to just require a whole new surge of things that I think even the most prudent person would not have anticipated at this level. Okay. We’ve got one more. Yes, sir.

Speaker 9: (18:54)
Do you have any plans to require testing at longterm care facilities for employees or-

Ron DeSantis: (19:01)
I told the surgeon general and the OCHA secretary, we want to get in there and do surveillance type testing, where you’re testing residents regardless of whether they have symptoms. Part of what we’re going to get, I think we’ll get some good data. We launched the project at the villages. Now that’s obviously different than a nursing home or an assisted living facility, but we’re going to be running some of these seniors through tests on a random basis, not necessarily symptomatic. And then try to get a sense of, okay, do people carry this thing and not show symptoms? And that really, if you listen to some of the things that Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci have talked about recently, there’s a lot that we didn’t know when we started this. We know more now than when we started it.

Ron DeSantis: (19:46)
But I think probably the biggest question, and it may be solved if we do this antibody tests, but how many people get this and don’t show symptoms. And then if there’s a large number of those people, how many people who are not symptomatic are capable of spreading the disease? I mean, how contagious are they? And those are questions that people are still looking at. If there are a lot of asymptomatic cases and then they’re contagious, well then that’s tough because you don’t know who you need to worry about. If there’s a lot of asymptomatic cases and they’re not as contagious, well then there can be a benefit from that because then they can build up more immunity in the populace. But that is kind of the million dollar question right now. And I don’t think anybody really knows for sure.

Ron DeSantis: (20:29)
When I look at our data, what I see is we have 90% test negative and we typically tend to test the people who have the worst symptoms, particularly those 65 and plus. If there was just a massive number of people out there who are carrying it without symptoms, I think that would show up somehow in some of this. But again, I mean you need to do it. I think our villages thing will help that, be able to do it. And then if we get more information on that, you’d be at a situation where, yeah, we want … I told Mary and [inaudible 00:21:03] to go in with all the residents there because you kind of got to be protecting those places more than you would just a normal neighborhood given how it affects elderly and see what information we can gather. The problem with though, just testing asymptomatic is you can test negative, you haven’t developed symptoms, you may develop symptoms, so you may be infected but just not testing positive and you may test positive in another couple of days or you may show symptoms in a couple of days.

Ron DeSantis: (21:30)
It’s not a panacea to do it that way. But I do think when they test for the antibodies in random testing throughout the population, that will be a big, big help. And then I’d also say Dr. Birx has talked about using a flu type surveillance to do COVID screening and try to figure out how that’s traveling throughout the country. And we don’t actually … Most people who get the flu don’t test positive for the flu. I mean, some do, but most people just go. What they do is they have a sophisticated system where they can kind of extrapolate, here’s how many people have the flu, here’s the range of fatalities from the flu. I think this year, we’re looking at between 26 and 55,000 nationwide. Florida, we tend to have one of the lowest fatality rates for flu. But we’re usually 28, 100, 3,000 a flu season in terms of fatalities.

Ron DeSantis: (22:19)
That is all because they built up that infrastructure to be able to do it. We’re now in a situation where we’re trying to do better as a country, but you’re in a situation where all these numbers are just, who has actually been swabbed, run through a very complicated test, and then gotten a result. If you did that with the flu, it’d be totally impractical to be able to get this type of data. I know they’re working really hard on some of that stuff, and I think the more we can get, I think the better it will be for us to be able to beat this back in the way that makes the most sense. With that, we we’ll see you guys later. I’m going to step out.

Speaker 10: (22:55)
Thank you everyone. Thank you.

Ron DeSantis: (24:18)
Yep. Thanks.

Speaker 10: (24:18)
Who was asking about corrections?

Speaker 11: (24:18)
Jake.

Speaker 10: (24:18)
Jake was.

Speaker 11: (24:18)
Who heard that on WCTV, they heard some people were … Was that WC-