Apr 18, 2020

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Briefing April 18

Florida Governor April 18 Briefing
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Briefing April 18

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a coronavirus press conference on April 18. He announced K-12 schools will be closed for rest of school year in Florida. Full transcript here.

 

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Ron DeSantis: (00:01)
…been working so hard over these many, many weeks, a lot of long weeks, particularly those in the medical community, the number of folks, nurses, doctors who’ve gone above and beyond is great. There’ve been some great things being done. I know a lot of lives have been saved because of the skill and expertise, and so just want to thank you for all you’re doing. We also want to thank the Florida National Guard for all they’ve done to help really be a force multiplier for the State of Florida in a number of ways, and probably the biggest way has been with expanding testing. Not only have they been instrumental in starting and maintaining these drive-through testing sites, but also, these teams go into nursing home facilities, and doing the spot testing to try to identify asymptomatic staff members who may be infected. If you look now, Florida, today, when we get the results in for today, we’ll have crossed 250,000 test results, a quarter of a million test results.

Ron DeSantis: (01:01)
That’ll be one for about 88 people, 87 people. That ratio is higher in the three Southeastern Florida counties who’ve seen the most cases, and I think one of the things that we’ve seen, we got huge numbers of test results the last two days, we got 31,443 test results. So that yielded 2,332 new Florida resident cases. So if you look at the percent positive, that’s the lowest two-day percent positive we’ve had in probably two or three weeks. If you look at places like Palm Beach County, you’re starting to see the percent positive go down. So those are all good trends and good signs. We’re going to continue doing the drive-through testing, because I think it’s important for an awful lot of people. We also, I’m telling the Guard to expand the strike teams into the nursing homes and assisted living facilities. So they’re working with the Department of Health and OCHA to be able to do that, because I think it’s very, very important.

Ron DeSantis: (02:02)
We also, this week launched two walk-up testing sites in Broward County. This is a way to reach a broader cross section of the community. Not everyone has access to vehicles, and we think that that’ll be a way to bring testing to more segments of the society. So we’re going to continue to do that, and try to replicate that model. What we’re also looking to do, as we go forward here, and as testing’s going to continue to be an issue, is have relationships with commercial labs that can do high throughput testing. And by that we mean if you have an employee, and someone may have a symptom, send them somewhere quick to get tested, you need to get a response, hopefully within 24 hours. Now they do have rapid tests, but a lot of that’s with hospitals and used in those settings. Maybe those will be wider available, but it probably is going to take some time. So we’re working to put together relationships to be able to get thousands and thousands of tests. Five thousand, ten thousand in each lab turned around within 24 hours.

Ron DeSantis: (03:07)
I think that that’ll be very, very good. Particularly as you’re looking at what the next steps are for the State of Florida. You obviously are going to be having people that may be symptomatic, and are going to go, and that’s been pretty standard, but I think what you’re also going to be needing to do is some type of screening testing, and it’s not that everyone needs to get tested, because I think as Dr. Fauci said, you can get tested negative, and then you could acquire the virus two days later. So you’re not going to test every day, but at least if you’re looking in different communities to see whether there’s any type of a bounce back on this, to be able to have that is going to be very, very important. So we hope to have some agreements in place very soon. The surgeon general has been working on that, as well as Director Moskowitz, so we appreciate that. We think that’ll be good. One of the most important studies that’s been done just this week came out at Stanford University, where they tested the antibodies in Santa Clara County, California.

Ron DeSantis: (04:04)
And so these are people who have the antibodies from the Coronavirus, or the thought is that they had acquired the virus. Many of them may not have known that they had had it, but they looked to see how prevalent those antibodies were in that County. And they determined that between 50 and 80 times more people in Santa Clara had the antibodies, than had actually tested positive in Santa Clara County. So we think that that’s important information, and we want to see that here in Florida. We’re working with a company that does blood donations, and they’re going to screen the blood for these Coronavirus antibodies. We also have a number of these antibody test kits. They’re supposed to come in this coming week, but I think as we’ve seen in this process, you never really know how that is all going to work out. But once we get that, we’re going to be able to take that and use that strategically, because it is important to know, if in fact the number of people who’ve actually tested positive is just a really small fraction of who’s actually had the virus, and who currently has the antibodies.

Ron DeSantis: (05:09)
That’s going to inform a lot of policymaking going forward, and so we’re very much working on getting some of these seroprevalence studies done in the state of Florida. Today, I’m also announcing that our K through 12 schools will continue with distance learning for the duration of the school year. We spoke with a lot of folks throughout the state. There was some differing opinions. Some parents were not interested in their kids going back. Some others, it’s been tough around the house. They would have liked to have seen them go back, but I think as we looked at the clock, and we look to see what it would look like, we’ve got pretty good momentum for distance learning. It’s obviously not the ideal situation, but given where we are in the school year, we felt that that was the best decision to go forward. I’ve also mentioned on Wednesday that I’m forming a task force for the rebound, Florida’s rebound and resurgence. It will have a number of folks from businesses, industries. It’ll have folks who are elected officials.

Ron DeSantis: (06:13)
We’re going to announce the members of the task force on Monday, which will also be the first day that the group will meet by telephone. The task force will develop a three stage approach to opening the state, short-term, medium-term and long-term, and we’ve always been looking medium and long-term in Florida how we can do better. Some of that is probably going to be same, but now with this situation, how can we use the back end of this, and position ourselves for the most success going forward? So they’re going to meet telephonically every day this coming week on the short-term strategy, and they’re going to provide recommendations for me by the end of the week. Then, once we get that in place, they’re going to look to the medium and long-term strategies, and we want to see people back to work for the long haul, and we want to continue with Florida’s economic development strategy. We had a lot of great irons in the fire before this hit, and we want to be able to get that back going forward.

Ron DeSantis: (07:13)
Since the beginning of this crisis, probably our number one point of emphasis has been on long-term care and nursing home facilities. Very early on, we put strong guidance and regulations in place so that staff members, anyone who entered a facility had to be screened for Coronavirus symptoms. We also prohibited outside visitors, and then we required members of staff to wear PPE, things like N95 masks. This is something that’s really important, and what we found is that you may have everyone doing everything right in one of these facilities, but you could have a staff member who’s not symptomatic and it can go, and it could spread throughout the staff, and spread to the residents very, very quickly. Because of that, that’s why we did the National Guard strike teams. So we have them going to different facilities. They’re doing spot testing. We’re trying to, if we identify an outbreak, contain it, so that it doesn’t spread like wildfire throughout the facility. We also have a number of the hospital systems who’ve been working on this, Cleveland Clinic for example.

Ron DeSantis: (08:20)
They will go in, and work with the staff and residents and facilities in their area, and we want all the healthcare providers to be able to do that. As we look forward to opening up elective procedures, and doing some of that, we want our hospitals to be able to say, “We’ve got enough space,” which we obviously have a lot of space in the hospitals now. We’re going to have enough PPE to deal with any COVID eventualities, and we do have a plan, and we’re willing to work on the nursing home situation in our respective areas. And if they’re onboard with that, then I think we can proceed with some of the elective procedures. So as of right now, the number of positive cases associated with nursing homes and assisted living facilities is 1,627. That includes residents and staff, and in some of these, the outbreak has affected the staff more. And we obviously have huge amount of both staff and residents in the state of Florida, probably more, or just about as much as any other state.

Ron DeSantis: (09:22)
One of the things that’s come up is you have fatalities identified generally by County. What about individual counties, and individual nursing homes? I told the surgeon general from the beginning, we want to put as much information out as you can. I don’t think you should be identifying individual patients by name, but at the same time, just getting the information out I think is better. And he’s done a lot. I think if you look at the reports, when people have asked to do more, when they asked for the racial and ethnic breakdown, that was added, there were some other things that have been added along the way. But I have now directed him to determine that it is necessary for public health to release the names of the facilities where a resident or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19. Now what had been done is as soon as there was a positive test, the facility was required to notify all the other residents, all the staff members, and all the families. And we have no reason to think that that wasn’t done. We know it was done most of the time.

Ron DeSantis: (10:24)
But at the same time, if you have one incident in a week from now, and they don’t follow through with that, I don’t want to be in a situation where the families don’t know. So that’s going to be part of what is put out publicly. So they’re working on doing that, and I think that that’ll be a positive step forward. In terms of the travel, we have now screened people coming from the New York City area, or New Orleans, almost 22,000 folks coming from those hot zones. And of course requiring them to self-isolate for 14 days. If you look at our hospital bed availability, when this all started, the thing people were most concerned about was the need to flatten the curve. Because if you didn’t do that, the infections could spike. Hospitals could be overwhelmed, and that would obviously lead to excessive deaths for COVID patients, but also for other patients. And I think if you look around the state of Florida, we’ve been holding pretty steady at 42 to 43% of beds statewide being available.

Ron DeSantis: (11:26)
I think the number, as of last night, the number in the ICUs statewide was probably as low as it’s been in a week, or eight or nine days. So I think people from around the state have seen a lot of stability. They’re not seeing a flood of new people coming in. So we want to hope that that trend continues. But clearly, there’s a lot of capacity here going forward in the state of Florida. We are giving updates by text. So for the latest updates on our effort to fight COVID-19, please text FLCOVID19 to 888777. Again, that’s 888777. Text FLCOVID19. Thank you.

Speaker 2: (12:06)
Governor, on Thursday it was pretty clear that you were still keeping schools closed, but hadn’t decided. What put you over the edge-

Ron DeSantis: (12:15)
It was a consultation. We had consulted with folks, and I think that there was a sense of, okay we obviously weren’t going to do it on May 4th, so it would have been probably the last couple of weeks of May. We were doing the distance learning. Academically, would there have been a huge benefit? And I think most people thought not. Now, look, I’m sensitive to, I mean, a lot of our kids haven’t seen friends for a while. So this has had social costs to it, and I want to figure out a way to overcome that. I think in the next phase, I think kids will have a little bit more to be able to do. But I think there was just logistical things.

Ron DeSantis: (12:50)
I think you had kind of a division amongst folks, whether this was a good idea or not. And I think the last thing you want to do is like force everyone in school, then have half the kids not show up, because their parents didn’t want to, have teachers not want to do it. So I think it was easier decision for me to make knowing that we’ve done so well with the distance learning. You have huge participation. Florida’s worked very hard to be a leader on that. We have folks all over the country watching what we’re doing. So I felt that that was a good thing. Yes sir.

Speaker 3: (13:30)
I texted FLCOVID19 to 888777. I still haven’t gotten a confirmation.

Ron DeSantis: (13:30)
Standby, there’s going to be something coming out-

Speaker 3: (13:31)
I haven’t gotten it yet.

Ron DeSantis: (13:32)
Well you’re going to get it. Yeah. We’re trying to be respectful. We’ve put out a notice. We’re going to do another one either today or tomorrow, and we’ll continue to update obviously as we get into the second phase of this. And we’re going to want folks to be able to know, and have good information on that. So when you’re doing this, I think people want to be informed, but there’s some times, as many of you know, you just get emailed or texted all the time. So we’ve tried to be respectful for it. We want to keep people, and obviously I’m doing public appearances every day, want to keep people in the loop, but we don’t want to cause it to where they’re getting annoyed by getting overwhelmed.

Speaker 4: (14:07)
[inaudible 00:14:07] you mentioned the 24 hour turnarounds. Can you give us a little more information about how you’re going to get to that point, and also produce the results from [inaudible 00:14:29].

Ron DeSantis: (14:31)
LabCorp and Quest are kind of the main ones. And when we all started, this was all going through the CDC. That was slow, not a lot of capacity. The private labs came online, and they were promising 24 to 48 hour turnaround. So when we first started doing it, actually we probably got some for maybe a few days at 48 hours. But what happened was, everyone was sending stuff there, they got backed up, and so they would turn it around sometimes five, six days is kind of the way it was. What’s happened since then is, and Dr. Birx has talked about this at the task force briefings. There is a lot more lab capacity out there, but for $50 a sample, a lot of labs weren’t willing to go ahead and open up that capacity. So what Medicare, Medicaid, federal government have done is said, “Okay it’s $100 a sample.” And so now you have more labs that are interested in doing it.

Ron DeSantis: (15:27)
So we’ve been in discussions with a number of them, some in Florida, some in other states to where, how many can you do a day if we get them to you by this time at night, when will we get the results back? But this is something that nobody really had access to just a week ago. So it’s a new thing. There’s more of a financial incentive. So our hope is to have, we think we may have an ability to do it in Gainesville. We think we may have an ability to do one in Texas. And then I’ve also told the surgeon general, let’s get our state labs to have more high-throughput testing. Because it would cost some money to do it. But if you pay $1 million for a machine, and then it costs you less to run it than what it costs to be able to pay per test. Because it’s going to be $100 per test. And so if we plan on doing tens of thousands of tests a day, or even 10,000 tests a day, you know, that’s going to add up pretty quickly.

Ron DeSantis: (16:23)
So if we have our own capacity, then that would be able to do a lot. So we’re looking at both. We will definitely have an agreement with some lab to do high-throughput within the coming days. And then we very well may see our state labs beefed up. When CDC initially did it, they wouldn’t even let the state labs do it. So we would send it there. Then they said, “Okay, the state labs can do it. But if you get a positive, it’s a presumptive positive. You still have to send it to us to get it confirmed.”

Ron DeSantis: (16:50)
So it was not a good system, but our state labs do, I mean they can do maybe a hundred, or 200 a day. They’re just not set up to be able to do the high throughput. But I think we should do that. And we’re thinking even about maybe just adding a fourth state lab, because we have Jacksonville, Tampa, and Miami. And we don’t know what shape this is going to take this summer. But if we have hurricane season, got to shut down the coastal labs, it would be helpful to have something in the interior part of the state. So we’re definitely looking at that for sure. Yes ma’am.

Speaker 5: (17:22)
[inaudible 00:17:22] considering that, [inaudible 00:17:31].

Ron DeSantis: (17:31)
Well they can do it without having people congregating. We’ll see what we’re looking like then. But I think that NASA’s mission is absolutely essential to this country, to our state. And the reports I’ve been getting were that even though this has been a real major obviously shock to the economy, that a lot on the Space Coast has been going very well. So we want to keep that going. We don’t want to miss a beat. As we get into kind of the next phase, certain gatherings, you’re not going to go right into have huge crowds right away, of course. And so that may be impacted there. But I think by and large, if you let people know kind of, hey, what are the expectations? I think most people have been pretty respectful of that.

Speaker 6: (18:12)
On the task force, how often are they meeting? Every day?

Ron DeSantis: (18:16)
Yeah, so they’re going to do, for the short-term, they’re meeting every day this coming week. And then I want some recommendations on my desk by the end of the week. So hey, if they solve the world in three days, then they don’t have to meet the rest of it. But I think that there’s a lot of different issues that we’re going to need to be working through. Some of the things we’re going to be dealing with, because this has really had such a broad effect. I mean agriculture, they’ve been affected by this. We’re going to talk about some of the testing in terms of what we’re looking to do here. I’ve also got a task force that’s going to be a part of this led by Pat Garrity from Florida Blue, about how else can we leverage private sector to really amp up the capacity, and some of that may be broader production of these quick tests, but even if you have the labs, if the labs could turn it around and you had a system, that would be pretty good.

Ron DeSantis: (19:07)
So we’re going to do that. What does theme parks look like? Travel into Florida? And not just we want people from Ohio to come here. What about international people coming here? How are the airlines going to handle it? How are the cruise ships going to deal with this? Now they’re not doing anything in May, but they said they want to start again in June. How is that going to fit into this? Because obviously, that’s been a source of friction in terms of our fight against COVID-19. What’s restaurants? What’s the restaurant industry looking like? How are we going to be able to get them back? How are we going to be able to do some of these other things? So when you kind of think about these things, but then when you actually sit down and write down the number of things that we’ve got to be smart about, I think that it’s going to be very helpful to have that, I think.

Speaker 6: (19:51)
The task force, what’s it going to look like? What sort of players are going to be involved, how many-

Ron DeSantis: (19:57)
Well we’ll announce the whole thing on Monday, but what I’ve done is, I’ve tried to get people from a variety of industries, and particularly small business folks who have been the most impacted, but also elected officials throughout the state. So I’ve asked all the County Mayors in Southeast Florida to be a part of it. We’ve asked other folks from around the state, I got people like Chris [inaudible 00:20:19] and Wilton Simpson, who obviously, Tampa Bay area, and are going to be big haunches in the legislature. So I think it’s a pretty good cross section of folks. And these are folks who have seen this from different angles. And I think that’s why it’s really, really helpful. I mean, we kind of see it from the Tallahassee angle, and going around, and obviously we’ve been focused so much on health, and you see the unemployment, you see some of these other things, but these folks are seeing it on the ground up, about what can we do to help get their communities back on their feet. So I think it’ll be good.

Speaker 7: (20:50)
[inaudible 00:20:50] and even before Friday’s [inaudible 00:21:00] have you seen [inaudible 00:21:03].

Ron DeSantis: (21:06)
I think it’s just because there’s been a little more protest. I don’t know that I ever had a protest, or maybe I had one or two, but I had the guy with the prison, and then some of the other folks who want to see Florida open up, which look, I’m with them. We’ve got to get there, and we’re working on it. So I don’t know that it is, I think it’s just the time. But we do have a situation where we’ve got three kids running around now, well the little one’s not running around, but she’s a bundle of joy, but she’s also a lot to handle.

Ron DeSantis: (21:34)
My wife’s doing a great job, but I’ll tell you, Casey, because of the pandemic, besides having the baby, she’s basically been at the mansion since the end of February. Hasn’t really been able to do a whole lot. So as we see do you need to get back? I mean I just see kind of how it is to be inside, and not be able to go just everyday in my own house. And I think people, they’re going to be responsible, they want to be safe. But I do think they want to get back into a routine.

Speaker 8: (22:07)
[inaudible 00:22:08].

Ron DeSantis: (22:09)
I told them that to do it. So I mean, I hope he gets it to you as soon as possible. It’s not something that we want to wait around on. And basically, my view was, is look, if this is going to potentially expose a patient record, but I don’t think it will. And I think it will actually be a double security, because all these facilities are required to notify the families, and required to notify the other residents and staff. And as I said, I think they all have done that. But all it takes, if one doesn’t do it, I think I would want to know. So this way we’re putting it out there. They will still have to notify personally via phone or email. But, you’ll also have this, and maybe it will be on the public report. Maybe they’ll issue it separately. But I think it’ll be good. Most states had not been doing it, but I think, we’re just looking at it, and I think there’s other, states that are moving in this direction too.

Ron DeSantis: (23:02)
And I think it’s important, because if you look at this, and particularly if you look at the Stanford study to see the number of people who’ve had it, because that obviously affects the hospitalization rate, and the fatality rate. And if you believe there’s 50 to 80 times more people than we have documented, then obviously the hospitalization chances are lower, and the fatalities are lower, which is a good thing. But if you look at it, once you get into those nursing home situations, that’s really the biggest issue. So we want to do all we can to make sure that everyone is being safe. And I’ll tell you, we came out very early on that, and I think that CDC recommended our model to other states. You’re now seeing states move a little more aggressively to implement some of the things we did earlier in March, because they’re seeing huge proportion. I mean, well the numbers will come out, but I mean the last time I looked, it was between 90 and a hundred of our fatalities were connected to these facilities.

Ron DeSantis: (23:59)
Some of these other states that are a fraction of our size have had hundreds and hundreds of folks in these facilities. New York I think has had thousands, and it’s a difficult thing, but I think the fact that we put a lot of emphasis on it, and a lot of resources towards it has proven to be successful, and we just got to keep it up. The next phase, whatever every other part of the economy looks like, whatever type of measures are in place, whatever measures get relaxed. I can tell you, we’re going to continue on the path with the nursing homes, and the longterm care facilities, and any way that we can even beef up efforts, we’re going to be looking to do that. Thanks everybody.