Apr 17, 2020

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Briefing April 17

Florida April 17 Briefing Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Briefing April 17

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a coronavirus press conference on April 17. He said that Florida unemployment tripled in just one week. Full transcript here.


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Governor Ron DeSantis: (00:00)
They usually nip us when they report later, so we’re very close to them, usually around number three in the country per capita. We’ve increased tremendously. We’ve done over 225,000 tests. Probably by the end of the day we’ll be about 235,000 completed tests with results. One of the things we wanted to do early on was provide easy access for testing for folks. So the first place that we worked in conjunction with the Florida National Guard and local officials was right here in Broward County, when we did the first drive through test site. Probably one of the most successful sites that anyone’s done in the country. We have national leaders from the National Guard will come down, watch to see the best practices, and uniformly these guys say this is one of the best sites. It’s been incredibly successful. All the drive-in sites throughout Florida have done 56,000 plus tests just in those drive through sites. And of course people are getting tested in the hospitals if they go in. They go to their doctor, the doctor will send it to a lab. So that’s happening all over the place as well. But this has really been a force multiplier for us. At the same time, not everybody is going to have access to be able to go to a drive-in site. Maybe it’s just too far away from where you live. Maybe you don’t have reliable ground transportation. And so we wanted to see where were some of the gaps in testing access and see if we as the state of Florida could help to try to fill those. The first run at this that we did was up in northeast Florida. We did a walk-in site, kind of just walking through neighborhoods, in conjunction with UF Shands Health to go into some of the underserved communities in public housing. And these are folks who were very appreciative that people were going. Obviously it’s voluntary. No one has to test, but it allows this to be brought into communities that may have been underserved.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (01:59)
And I think that that was a successful model. So we want to expand on that here. So the new concept that we’ll be bringing to Broward County are walk-up community testing sites. We’re starting two of the sites here, one right here at the Urban League, the other will be at Mitchell Moore Park in Pompano. And I appreciate everyone who’s been involved with this. We have Dr. Germaine Baugh at the Urban League, Broward County Mayor Dale Holeness, Broward County administrator Bertha Henry, Fort Lauderdale Mayor, Dean Trantalis, for their help and their input in getting this started. I want to thank the Broward Sheriff’s department, Sheriff Tony, and of course the Florida National Guard for providing crucial support. Also the Florida Division of Emergency Management will be sourcing this with things like the collection kits, which are very important to be able to get the swabs.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (02:54)
So at this point, we’ve tested one in every 996 people in Florida based on current numbers. Obviously the ratio is going to get even better as we get more test results in. But I think this one is really, what we’re doing today is really important to make sure that communities aren’t overlooked. And so I want to thank everybody who’s involved with this. We have 60 National Guardsmen, along with the Florida Department of Health and Broward Sheriff’s office will operate the two sites. And so this is a lot of supplies and a lot of manpower being put in here. The process is simple. Any individual experience symptoms of COVID-19, doesn’t matter how old you are, it doesn’t matter where you’ve traveled. Six weeks ago everyone was talking about China and all this. Doesn’t matter. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you can walk up to the site to receive a test or you can call ahead to set up an appointment to be tested. Appointments can be made by calling (954) 412-7300.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (03:59)
Each client will be provided a bag of resources upon exiting the site. The Department of Health Broward County will call each person to advise them of their test results. If a person tests positive, the county health department is partnering with federally qualified health centers for follow-up tele-health. Now, fortunately if you look at the number of documented cases in Florida, but then you look at our cumulative hospitalizations, the vast majority of people who have tested positive, have not required hospitalization. And so if they’re self-isolating, if they’re doing what the physician say, we think that most of those folks are going to be good, which is great. But there will be in touch and hopefully that will be something with the tele-health that will make a big difference. So each site is going to start by doing 200 tests a day and then we’ll see where it goes from there.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (04:55)
I think that if the model is successful, which we think it will be, we would want to replicate this in some other parts of the state, and we’re already looking in places like Miami Dade to do this. So it’s exciting to be able to continue moving the ball forward on testing. I really want to thank the Urban League of Broward. They’ve been a recipient of some of these closing the gap funds from the state of Florida. I think it was almost 300,000 over the last two years, and they’re consistently rated very high for how they’re using that money and the results that they’re getting. So I commend the Broward County Urban League for all the work they’re doing. They have made a good impact using state funds in this community. This is an example of doing even more, which we’re very, very pleased about.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (05:41)
I also want to give an update if you … Obviously this is a health issue, a health crisis, and that’s been the number one thing that we’ve been dealing with day after day. But if you look outside of that, we’re now in an economic crisis as well because of the results of this national shutdown. It’s thrown a lot of Floridians out of work through no fault of their own. And that’s something that I as governor understand the frustrations, the fear, everything that goes into losing a job, especially through no fault of your own, especially unexpectedly through what’s really happened with this economy. And so we need to make sure the folks that have been displaced are able to get back on their feet. And one of the things we’ve been working hard on is getting this re-employment assistance working better.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (06:37)
So, when this started, the system was overwhelmed. They didn’t have the capacity in manpower either. And we said, “We’ve got to fix this. We’ve got to put all hands on deck to get this done.” And we’ve made it our number one economic priority in the state of Florida. So I have staff not only from the Department of Economic Opportunity, but also the Department of Management Service working round the clock. There’s been huge changes made to the system, and I’ll talk about the results. They’re really going in a good direction. We’ve got to do more. They’re good. We brought in 100 new servers to help deal with this capacity. I mean, to give you a sense, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of applicants now. Last year the state got about 350,000 for the whole year. So this is a big volume. We need those servers. So you have 100 new servers to build capacity.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (07:34)
We’ve now brought in a number of people to do calls, to man the call centers. And so we’ve got over 2,000 people now involved who are either now taking calls or ongoing training so that they’ll be able to do that. And if you go back a month ago, a month and a half ago, I mean there were probably 30 people in the entire state doing it. And that was actually enough because we had such a low unemployment rate. So there’s been a massive surge of resources in terms of manpower, but what I also did is something that we’ve really never done before in the state of Florida, is say, because this is so unprecedented, I can’t expect just the current agency alone to be enough. So we identified 2,000 employees of the state of Florida who are working in other agencies, who previous to this weren’t involved in unemployment compensation, and we have an all hands on deck call. We’ve identified 2,000. We already have 1,000 of those actively working cases, and we’re going to add more as need be.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (08:38)
We also recognize that not everyone has access to online right now and even if the website’s working, if you can’t get on the internet, how are you going to file? So we did a partnership with Federal Express to offer free printing and mailing of re-employment assistance at all their storefront locations. So we’ve received, the state of Florida’s received over 20,000 paper applications through Federal Express. And so I want to thank them for their great work. They send us the applications every night. And so this is another way for folks to be able to submit the claims.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (09:15)
We also set up a new website to be able to accept the data without undue delay. The website is functioning. It’s a Pega website. And that website has received over 600,000 re- employment claims. So people are able to get on that website. We have expanded call capacity, which is important, but ultimately, you can get on the website and maybe it works perfectly, but really where the rubber meets the road is we want people to be able to get the assistance. And I’ve told the agency they need to get this out the door as fast as possible. This is not something that the agency had ever really done. If you go back to say January when our unemployment rate was 3%, if you lost your job, if you did everything right with applying, you wouldn’t get any money until four to five weeks after you lost your job. And so what I’ve said is we’ve got to do better than that.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (10:13)
And so since the beginning of the crisis, I’ve waived three laws to be able to expedite relief going out. We waived work search requirements, which would have required people to spend a week or two looking for jobs. Obviously that’s not exactly happening right now. I think it will soon where we’ll be able to get back to work, but not at this moment. I waived the prohibition on receiving payment the first week after applying for assistance. That’s the waiting week. And then I waived the requirement that individuals re-certify their unemployment status every two weeks after applying. And the reason is because we have tens of thousands of people who are ready to go for payment, but they’ve got to go back on the website and re-certify. Well, we know what’s going on with the economy now. If this were normal times, I’d understand that. So why would you want to drive more people to the website that is getting so much traffic? It doesn’t make sense. So I waived that.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (11:08)
And so after these actions, we’re actually going to be able to do this I think in a better way. The process has gotten better. There’s still more work to do, but we’re doing all kinds of technological upgrades with an eye towards the speed of doing this. And so here’s, with respect to payments, last week we sent out 35,000 payments. This week we’ve already sent out 100,000 payments to people. And that’s more than we did all this year up to this current crisis. We only did about 300,000, 350,000 last year for the entire year. So it is ramping up, and I’ve told them we’ve got to continue to do it because it’s important to a lot of people. People don’t know what’s going to happen economically. I think we have a path back, but for right now, people need to be able to put food on their table and pay their rent. So, it is our top-

Governor Ron DeSantis: (12:03)
Who need to be able to put food on their table and pay their rent. So it is our top economic priority. lot of progress has been made and I want to thank Jon Satter who is the head of the Department of Management Service. He helped get all these call centers up. He helps surge the state employees. Now I’ve put him in charge of overseeing all the reemployment payment, a system to be able to expedite as much as possible. So we’re going to continue working hard. That’s a seven day a week, 24 hour a day task right now for the state of Florida.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (12:36)
Just an update on where we are with the cases and what it’s looking like in the state of Florida. As many of you know, the reason why we started on the 15 days to stop the spread and then the 30 days to stop the spread was to make sure that our hospitals had enough capacity to be able to handle patients who are going to be infected by COVID-19. And the thought is if you could slow the spread, hospitals would be able to absorb and we’d be able to reduce any excess mortality. As of today in the state of Florida, the available beds statewide, about 43% of the beds statewide are empty right now.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (13:18)
If you look in Miami Dade, it’s about 42% of the beds are empty, Broward, almost 41% Palm Beach, about 44% of the beds that are empty. If you look at our numbers statewide, as of 8:00 PM last night, the state reported 774 patients statewide in ICUs, and that’s the lowest total number since April 9th. So I think what you’re seeing is progress is being made. The hospitalizations have been relatively flat. Obviously to see less people in the ICU is a great thing. I’ve been talking to a lot of the hospital folks around the state and they’re in a much better place, they think than what they were thinking maybe a month ago.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (14:05)
And so that’s a credit to a lot of people in the state of Florida. It’s a credit to a lot of the doctors and the nurses who are working really, really hard. I can tell you some of the stuff that’s going on in different parts of the state room. Right here in Broward some of the things the Cleveland Clinic is doing, some of the things these other hospitals are doing is really making a difference. Some of these patients have absolutely had their lives saved because of not just the dedication, not just the hard work, but really the ingenuity. This is a novel virus. They’re learning new things about it every day, indeed every hour and then they’re able to calibrate treatment accordingly. So my hats off to everybody that’s been involved. For the latest updates on our effort to fight COVID-19, please text Florida COVID-19 that’s FL COVID-19 to 888777. Again, that’s FL COVID-19 to 888777 With that, do we have anyone that wants to make any comments? Yeah.

Speaker 2: (15:08)
Good morning to everyone. Governor Santis, thank you for being here. Thank you for the access that you’ve given us to your office. Thank you for your support of the people of Broward County as we jointly fight this pandemic that’s wreaking havoc not only in the people of Broward County, the state of Florida and the United States, but the entire world. We are in this together and you have demonstrated clearly that you will fight with us jointly as we work to defeat this pandemic. So on efforts, it’s been great. None of us are perfect. Not even I. Nor is the governor. We might not always do the exact thing that’s right all the time, but as long as we’re making a continuous effort to work together to beat this pandemic so that we can get our people back to work, back to a normal life or some sort of a normal life because life’s changed as we know it, as a result of this pandemic.

Speaker 2: (16:18)
Let me just say that it’s fitting that we’re here on this corridor under Sistrunk Corridor in the zip code, 33311. And by the way, it is a zip code in Broward County that has the second highest number of people who have tested positive for the Coronavirus. This community is often underserved. Yet it’s a place where many of the pioneering leaders of Broward County, particularly those who are of African descent originate from. We’re on this corridor, the Sistrunk Corridor [inaudible 00:16:53] for Dr. Sistrunk who started the hospital right here. Providence Hospital on this boulevard at a time when blacks were not allowed to go to Broward General.

Speaker 2: (17:05)
It’s a different time and it’s a different day. Our community has come together in a serious way to ensure that we’re working together to fight this deadly virus. We are at a place, the Urban League of Broward County, a champion organization led by a great leader that works to ensure that those who are underserved are given the services that they’re needed.

Speaker 2: (17:36)
Dr. Baugh, I thank you and I commend you for your efforts in the organization here. Now, Dr.Thaqi, you got some heat early. Because folks were complaining you weren’t giving us all the information and all the data that the press wanted and we wanted, but you are steadfastly working to ensure that Broward County was at the forefront of testing, of tracing, of ensuring that people who are positive are isolated so that we could contain the spread and your effort is paying off because at this time we’re flattening the curve. What we have to do now is look forward to how we can plan for the future because our economy cannot sustain where we are. Our small businesses are still receiving notice that they haven’t paid their rent. Many people who are out of work will get some assistance but it won’t be enough for them to live a full prosperous life.

Speaker 2: (18:44)
So we have to now start to look at how we continue to fight and beat this virus, but also how we plan for the future. A different time with different plans because we are all not going to be able to do all the things that we’d like to do. I love to shake hands you notice. I can’t shake hands that much anymore, right? The mask make me a little uncomfortable because it makes me sweat a little bit more. But this is what we must do in order to beat this virus and I look forward to the day when we can all work together again to ensure that we’re working diligently to provide prosperity for all the people of this community. Again, thank you Governor and thank you Director Moskowitz. Dr Baugh.

Speaker 3: (19:29)
Good morning. I welcome you and each of you to what we call the Empowerment Campus, which is Samuel Delevoe Park, the African American Research Library and the Urban League of Broward County. When we cultivate relationships in time of calm, we’re able to activate them powerfully in the time of crisis and that’s why we stand here today. I thank you Governor DeSantis and your team for your continued partnership with the urban leagues across the state of Florida and expanding Coronavirus testing and options in our community. We absolutely need this now.

Speaker 3: (20:09)
To our local leaders like Gino Santorio, from CEO of Broward Health. I thank you and your team for standing up the drive through testing site at Central Regional Park in partnership with our Broward Sheriff’s office, our city of Lauderhill and Broward County parks and recreation. From there we were able to answer the call once more with Dr. Thaqi, which Mayor Holness talked so beautifully about because she works tirelessly leading our Florida Department of Health in Broward County and also our National Guard for your assets and the state funding to be able to manage these two sites in Fort Lauderdale and Pompano. Like the Florida Consortium of Urban League Affiliates, there are many networks who are willing to partner, willing to make a difference like the Florida State Medical Association that represents over 2000 black doctors across the state of Florida.

Speaker 3: (21:09)
It is unfortunate and a painful fact that this Coronavirus is killing African Americans at a greater rate than any other group across the nation. But I will tell you this, we do not want Florida to reflect the nation in this way. That’s why the Governor’s support and what he’s doing here today and the Office of Minority Health and the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and using models of social determinants of health is so important for us now and it’s going to be imperative for us in the future. This virus is no respecter of age, race, ethnicity, income or geography. It does not discriminate and we must speed up every effort we can to test and to educate, to be able to prevent the spread and the deeper penetration of this disease in our community.

Speaker 3: (22:03)
We know that one way to reverse this is various access to testing like we’re doing today in Pompano and we will be doing tomorrow here at the Urban League. That is how we’re going to slow this disease and hopefully end it in the time to come. Testing is one way and the other way is education and awareness. Across the state of Florida, my colleagues, the seven urban leagues in the state of Florida, we have been working tirelessly to communicate to our community and get the word out to tens of thousands of individuals that we must stay safe. The Urban League stand ready to support any and every institution in this fight. We expect to use our people and our physical assets to keep our communities moving forward now and absolutely in the future. So, to my fellow neighbors, I’m speaking directly to you, I pounded this drum not because of some profound policy discussion around the roundtable. And I’m thankful that those with the resources heard it and actually did something to respond about it.

Speaker 3: (23:14)
I pounded this drum related to our walk-up site because like you, I would have been the child of a family who would have needed this type of access. My parents used public transportation, shared rides to and from work and yep, simply walking. So despite the titles that I might have today, I will always be that little girl from a family just like yours that needed to have this type of service. But now I need you to do your part. I need you to stay at home if you can, and if you have to work, I need you to stay safe and use every precaution you can. I need you to manage your health. Whatever the underlying conditions are, let’s manage it together. I need you to use these testing sites, whether it’s the walk-up-

Speaker 3: (24:03)
I need you to use these testing sites, whether it’s the walkup or the drive through, if you’re having any symptoms. I need to see you on the other side of this, Jordan. We will make it home, I promise you. And when we do, I want you to come by and say hello here at the urban league. Thank you, governor.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (24:23)
Well, thanks so much. It’s really exciting to be able to expand this, and to reach as many people as we can with the testing. Just so everybody knows, as we get into the next phase of this, we actually are going to probably be doing even more testing and part of the reason for that is, is there’s going to be a diagnostic need. If you have a business and somebody may have a symptom, what you want to do is have an easy place for them to go get a test and then get a result in a decent time interval. And then obviously when you’re talking about hospitals, somebody comes in, they’re doing this in many places now, Cleveland Clinic, other places with these rapid tests where they can know immediately if someone’s symptomatic, whether they’re COVID or not, and if they’re not COVID, then obviously you’re going to deal differently.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (25:08)
Then even the asymptomatic people, when they’re coming in, they’re able to identify, because an asymptomatic person can spread. So we’re going to be … We’re already working on ways to be able to expand the capacity even more because you have things like these rapid tests coming online. That’s a great thing, what that has done is it’s made a little bit more space in some of the lab testing. So the lab testing, if you can get that turned around in 24 hours, is a huge tool. I think part of the problem that we’ve seen around the country with Lab Corps, Quest, some of these as they just have such a big backlog that people don’t get the results immediately. So you’ll have, hospitals will have their own labs still. They can do a certain amount of tests. You’ll have the instant tests, which certainly for hospitals, first responders, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, very important particularly for the staff to be able to know there.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (26:02)
Then beyond that, having quick lab testing is something that’s very important. So we’re working on things in the state of Florida to be able to meet that need because I think if people are able to have access to a test, even if you do have somebody that tests positive, you can … Because of public health folks, they can trace the contacts, isolate and, and really contain this, but you’ve got to have the tools to do it. I will also say this. When this first started in Florida, a lot of the … Well throughout the country, what we were doing here in other places is we’d have to find somebody, you’d administer the swab and then you’d send it to the CDC in Atlanta and then you’d wait usually a week for the results on that.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (26:47)
That made it a little bit more difficult to do. We started doing, they let us start doing the state labs, which are limited in what they can do, but you would still do some to the state labs. But what we had in our county health departments was a very strong effort at isolating people that tested positive and then tracing the contacts. So you look in different places, well, Broward, even though they’ve had a lot of cases here, you would have had way more cases if it weren’t for the work that they were doing here at the health department. You look around the state, we have counties that have hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people, that have very few cases relative to the population. Some of these counties have a half million people, they got like 150 or 200 cases.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (27:32)
Part of that is because of different types of social distancing. But part of that is because what these County health departments were doing to isolate the contacts, isolate the sick, trace the contacts and limit the spread of this thing, which is kind of the bread and butter of public health. So we are now going to be in a situation, we’re going to have even more resources at the disposal to do that, and I think the success that’s happened has been an unsung story here in Florida in terms of what they’ve done with isolation and containment, that’s going to then take on even at an importance of we’re going to have the ability to do that. So with that, I’m happy to take a question or two.

Speaker 6: (28:10)
[inaudible 00:28:13].

Governor Ron DeSantis: (28:20)
So this is another totally fake narrative. If you go to your doctor’s office and the doctor swabs you and sends it to Lab Corps, the state doesn’t know that that happened. We, it’s only reported when you have a result. This disease and other diseases, when you have a result, it’s required to be reported to the state of Florida. There’s no legal requirement for them to report the fact that they just swabbed somebody. So it’s not like we know the total number of tests. We don’t, we don’t know how many … In fact, if we call some of these test centers, they can’t even give us the proper things. And so I’ve been very clear from the beginning, we expect another 15,000 results tomorrow, 10,000. when I give the total test numbers, I always say we’re probably going to hit another 10,000. of course we know that there are tests out there, but it’s not reportable until they actually have a result.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (29:15)
So you have private hospitals that are sending the Lab Corps, you have test sites that are sending, some of the sites we’re supporting, some of the sites we provide the materials, but other folks run it. The Jacksonville site, city of Jacksonville Fire Rescue, they’d done a great job. So it’s not the case that somehow the state is just sitting on this. And California had the same thing where they had 60,000 test results dumped from the private labs about a week and a half ago. So we know that there are tests out there, but they’re not required to be reported to the state of Florida until there’s actually a result.

Speaker 7: (29:51)
[inaudible 00:00:29:52].

Governor Ron DeSantis: (29:59)
We’re working on it. We’ll have an announcement on that. I haven’t decided yet. Yes sir.

Speaker 8: (30:10)
[inaudible 00:00:30:10].

Governor Ron DeSantis: (30:14)
Jared? Who wants to handle that? Is anyone … You want to answer? Yeah, go ahead.

Speaker 9: (30:22)
The hours are from nine to six and we have set the pod up so that there is adherence to social distancing. Everybody who comes will either be wearing or will be given a face covering, and we’ve actually marked out the line so that folks are at least six feet apart.

Speaker 10: (30:42)
Governor, you’re talking about-

Governor Ron DeSantis: (30:47)
I’ll do you next. Yep, go ahead.

Speaker 10: (30:49)
And then as you mentioned, some of the smaller counties [inaudible 00:30:51].

Governor Ron DeSantis: (30:54)
Well, one, I mean we actually have huge counties, not as big as Miami Dade, some that are close to Brower, not quite as big, but if you look at places like Orange County, Hillsborough County, Pinellas, Duvall, these are 900,000 a million, a million and a half people. And their case load is just a lot less than you have in Palm Beach and Broward and Miami Dade. And so that’s a good thing. I mean, I always, from the beginning, and I was criticized by a lot of people in the peanut gallery about saying this was not something that was impacting Florida uniformly. It was impacting every part of the state in one way or another. But clearly given the density in Southeast Florida, given the international travel, given the connections to New York City, we were seeing more seeds of it here. They have had big events here and in February.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (31:45)
So that was just the reality. So the answers, and I’ve been talking with Mayor Holness, I’ve been talking with Mayor Jimenez, Mayor Kerner in Palm beach, maybe Southeast Florida next phase looks a little different. I’m going to work with them to figure out what they think makes the most sense in terms of this next phase. But I think the mayor here, the mayor in Miami Dade, I think they do believe we do need to get to a next phase. Maybe Southeast Florida looks a little different than the rest of the state. And I think that that would make sense. But putting it in perspective too. You look at the number of cases in Broward, you know there’s several thousand cases, but there’s almost 2 million people here. I mean, you have small cities in like Long Island that do that in a week without question.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (32:32)
So they’ve worked really hard here and I think they deserve a lot of credit. I mean, it’s one thing you have your community and there’s been different areas here, but you had the cruise ships coming in, you had all these flights coming in. We did the screening, we’ve screened about 20,000 people from either the New York City area or New Orleans in the last several weeks. Guess what? The most popular flight from the New York City area? Fort Lauderdale airport. But I think the fact that we’ve done that and isolated those folks has helped inhibit the spread. And I’m not saying everyone has it, of course they don’t. But in an area like New York where people in the city are testing positive at 30, 40, even 50% of the tests are positive. The chance that someone, if you have 20,000 people are bringing it, obviously some people were bringing it. Yes ma’am?

Speaker 11: (33:25)
[inaudible 00:09:25].

Governor Ron DeSantis: (33:28)
Well, I’m going to look. New York state did this. I think some other States have done it. And I think it’s just an issue of this is a novel virus. People are putting themselves on the line for doing it. And how does that work in terms of legal protection? Because if you look, this is something that, even if you have the PPE and everything, you have a critical mass of these cases and in a hospital and a nursing home, things like that, those folks are exposed or they’re going to be exposed. And so we’ve also though done things very early on because if you looked at it, even in the beginning of March, it was pretty clear that you were much more likely to be hospitalized if you were 65 and plus and had an underlying condition. And so, for us, we looked at these longterm care facilities and nursing homes as kind of the ground zero.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (34:19)
So we issued really tough regulations about who would be allowed in staff-wise. So almost all these facilities have been taking temperatures. They’ve had to pass screening the staff to go in. Now most of them have abided by that, worked hard. Obviously we’ve had a couple of cases where they didn’t follow. We didn’t allow visitors in there. Then we had them wear N95 masks. You have had cases where asymptomatic staff members have gone in. We had a case in Swanee County. You had an outbreak in a facility and most of the outbreak was with the staff, but I don’t think they had symptoms, people didn’t know. So that’s why we have the national guard doing these strike teams to try to get into these places, even when there’s no problem apparent, to try to figure out if there’s an infection, because if you catch it early, you can isolate and you can contain the outbreak.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (35:12)
If it’s allowed to just be the silent spreader and spread day after day after day, that’s when you get into situations where you have a lot of folks who are very vulnerable. We’re also working with hospitals so that they’re … Because if something happens in nursing home, Florida department of health sends a team, we obviously have the proactive with the National Guard going out there. AHCA has people on site. There’s a whole thing that happens and I think has been very effective at reducing the amount of infections in these places. So you say you have all that, but then you also have, like Cleveland Clinic here they work proactively with the nursing homes because they understand that if these outbreaks happen, that’s obviously going to put more stress on the hospitals, and so they’re going out and testing as well. So we’re trying to work with all of these healthcare providers to be able to do this. So the next-

Governor Ron DeSantis: (36:03)
All of these healthcare providers to be able to do this. So the next phase for Florida, you’re going to see the same and even more hopefully, because we’ll have more technology at our disposal in terms of what we can do with these nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Yes, ma’am.

Speaker 12: (36:15)
[inaudible 00:00:36:20].

Governor Ron DeSantis: (36:25)
Yeah. Look, I mean, I think that there’s a number of things, if you look at the president’s … what the president put out in terms of the different stages, we will obviously use that as kind of a baseline. It doesn’t mean that Florida is going to go every single thing they say or not say, but that’s a pretty good baseline. So, you look at different things. What does the workforce look like? Some of these businesses, letting people get back to work. I think that that’s something that’s very, very important. In terms of outdoor spaces, and if you look at how this disease is transmitted, it’s transmitted overwhelmingly when you’re in close, sustained contact with people.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (37:03)
Usually, in an indoor environment. Most of the transmissions when they’ve done studies in China, some of these other places, have been inside the home, inside things like public transportation. That’s why in New York City, they’re still packed on the subways. They’re still spreading it on that. Some of the outdoor spaces, the parks, and in some of these things, I think the risk is much more minimal. Now, you’re not going to have large gatherings out there, but I think to be able to get people get out and sunshine and be able to get some fresh air, in anything I’ve done, I always promoted essential activities with recreation. You just got to do it in a way that’s going to have low risk, but if you go run in your neighborhood by yourself, if you’re not coming into contact anyone, it’s very low risk.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (37:45)
I get a kick out of seeing somebody jogging on the beach in California, all by his lonesome, and you’ve got a fleet of cops go out there. He’s just jogging. So, going forward I think we got to be promoting people to get exercise, do it in a good way, do it in a safe way. But, I think Duval, some of their parks, we obviously are going to help anybody else, but that’s basically been a local decision, because I thought that there needed to be outlets for people to be able to do things safely.

Speaker 13: (38:19)
Governor, what is the date you have in mind for getting the unemployment backlogged down to a reasonable number?

Governor Ron DeSantis: (38:24)
We’re doing as much as we can. As I mentioned, we’ve done a 100,000 this week. That’s more claims than were paid the first two months of the year. I’m pretty confident in Florida, I have to go back and check the numbers. So we’ve been building it, building it, and I want them to keep building as much as possible. Some of the numbers which you’ve seen though is because the CONNECT system was screwy. People ended up applying through CONNECT, but they really weren’t sure because it was, so then they applied to Pega as well. And then some people also did a paper application. So we’re finding that the total of submissions is not necessarily the same as the total number of unique individuals. They’re not trying to do anything wrong. I just think they want to make sure that it gets through.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (39:08)
So, we’re working hard. I hope to be able, because there’s other upgrades that we’ll be doing on the system. We’re removing some of the roadblocks that are in the system, that requires some people that are very smart to go in there and do it. Fortunately, we have that. And that’ll hopefully free up more. So, we’ve thrown a lot of energy and resources, because it’s so important. But, I can tell you that the numbers are much better today than they were 10 days ago. And I hope to say that the numbers are even better there, and because we’ve cleared out so many of the requirements, we’re able, once the system continues to improve, hopefully can turn it around even quicker than if you were just a run of the mill applicant in January. Where it sometimes took four to five weeks just from the time you lost your job.

Speaker 14: (39:56)
Governor, with unemployment, so many people are telling our newsroom that they applied four or five weeks ago and they’re still in a status that says, “Pending.” Are you telling these people now that-

Governor Ron DeSantis: (40:05)
… no, no, no, no, no, no. So, all the stuff there, there were people that applied. When they first applied, we had the current, like if you applied on like March 18th when this all kind of started, we then waived some of the requirements so people didn’t have to do the job search, and so those things are being processed. What I did yesterday with the executive order was say, because normally what happens is you have to go, affirmatively go back on the website and reaffirm that you’re still unemployed, which under normal circumstances I would get, because if the unemployment rates 2.8%, like it was in the middle of March before this happened. In order to get unemployment, you have to legitimately be out of a job. Well, this is a situation where I don’t think anybody honestly thinks that somehow if you got furloughed on March 25th, that all of a sudden the job has reappeared.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (40:57)
I mean that’s going to take a little time. Hopefully, not as much time. I’m hoping we can bounce back quick, but it’s going to require a lot of hard work. So, that is people there. So some of these have been cleared out and it’s basically in the order that they came. We’re working with some of the really large employers who have announced furloughs to try to just get the data internally and then import it, because it takes stress off the system. So like a Disney, for example. But those folks would not be at the front of the line. The people that applied first are going to be at the front of the line. And so we’ve done 100,000 this week. I hope to do more. I get briefed every morning. I go, I meet with the Secretary. I talk to the Secretary every day. And we’ve even put more of our own governor’s office staff over there to make sure that it continues to move in a good direction. Okay, I’ve got time for one more, then I got to run.

Speaker 15: (41:51)
With 3M, has that situation, has that settled down, or are you guys still having problems with that?

Governor Ron DeSantis: (41:56)
So, here’s the way it works. So 3M does not sell masks directly to the state of Florida or to hospitals. They have an authorized distribution network. And I think what was happening was we would order from 3M or we’ll order from the network. They would be 3M masks, and we would be told, “Yeah, you’re going to get a million mask on Friday.” Oh, great. You go, they don’t appear. You’re going to get 500,000. They don’t appear. So that secondary market, there were some major issues. I think what the President’s done with Defense Production, I’ve spoken with the 3M CEO a number of times. He was able to shake loose a shipment from Granger that we now have. We’ve gotten at least 800,000 out of a million, and probably have the million by now, or close, from the White House working with them on the N95 masks. And I’m going to talk with Granger personally and some of the distributors about making sure that Florida is able to do it.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (42:52)
I think what was happening, they could make more money by selling, by fulfilling the orders internationally. And we have purchase orders in place. We had the money ready to go, but if they could sell it for twice as much, then I think they were turning it around, so there was a whole bunch of things going on in the secondary market. But, I think what the White House has done has been very positive and I think that, and the fortunate thing too is, and we’re still really working on the PPE, because we know it’s going to be a longterm need. But just speaking with the hospitals, they feel much better about their PPE right now than they did a month ago. Part of that is because of the flattened curve. You don’t have as many people in there as they feared, in hospitalizations, but I think part of it is we have been able to push out PPE and they’ve been able to get some PPE distributed to them.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (43:38)
We are going to be doing, hopefully this in other parts of South Florida. I’m going to be working with Jared and working with General Eifert. The National Guard has been fantastic in all of this. It’s been a huge force multiplier. If you look at the number of people that have been able to be tested, these sites are not easy to do. When we did that first site in Broward, at that point, most of the drive through sites had totally crashed and burned around the country.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (44:03)
They just didn’t work. Run out of PPE, run out of supplies. Something happens. They’ve run it and have done a great job from the beginning. It’s been a model. Broward Memorial has been fantastic with it. And so what they’re doing now from going through the drive through model, to go to the nursing home strike teams. Now, they’re transitioning and doing this as well. This is a whole bunch of different ways where they’re making an impact for the state of Florida. So I thank the General for his leadership, and I thank everybody who’s serving in the Guard. We’ll see you guys later. Thank you.

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