Apr 2, 2020
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Briefing April 2
Ron DeSantis: (01:53)
We have a lot of state government functions that are generally important but just aren’t as important right now given what we’re dealing with, so we want to be able to utilize all the manpower that we have. I’ve also been in contact with AT&T and Verizon about ways we can do calling that would work well in an age of social distancing where people could be able to do this potentially from their homes. This is a very, very top priority so that people … because I think people, when you have these abrupt changes to just be able to talk to someone on the phone or to know that you submit something, it actually goes through. Obviously you want to be able to get the assistance, but if you can at least have a system where people are able to get in touch with somebody, I think that that would give people a lot more peace of mind.
Ron DeSantis: (02:40)
Of course, I’ve also directed as you’re able to expand this we want to work on the processing to be much quicker than it has been in the past, so we’re willing to put manpower for that as well. Because this whole web platform is overloaded, people should be able fill out a paper application if that’s an option for them. We shouldn’t limit how they’re able to apply, so we’re going to beef up the call centers. I’ve ordered them to beef up or create an alternative for online submissions, but at the end of the day, if people want to submit an application in person or drop it off, then we should be willing to accept that. I’ve ordered them to make all available options available for people to be able to do that. Then I’ve asked or I’m ordering the department of economic opportunity to immediately purchase, on an emergency basis, additional capacity, software, technology and other resources as needed to ensure the state’s call center website and staff can accommodate the increasing volumes of applications and queries.
Ron DeSantis: (03:50)
I wish I could say that this is just something that’s only going to last a couple of weeks, but I think that this is not something that you can just turn on and off in an economy like this, so we need to expand the capacity, but just understand that this is going to be a problem that could be with us more than just a couple of weeks. I think that that’s going to be something that will be very much needed. In terms of our economic priorities, this is our top priority to be able to field the calls and be able to respond appropriately to the people of Florida, and I have all agencies now working on it. We’ve already, just today, been able to identify some pretty interesting options and I think we’re going to continue to build on that and really bring a lot of force to bear. I told everyone, you need to be making plans and identifying people right now so that we can deploy them immediately.
Ron DeSantis: (04:43)
The other executive order I’ve done today relates to mortgage foreclosure and eviction relief. We’re suspending foreclosures for 45 days and also suspending evictions for 45 days. I’m not sure that you’re going to rent out a lot of new places right now anyways, but nevertheless you just never know how people act, so given the circumstances, I think that those suspensions are warranted. An update on the travel, we’ve screened by air and car almost 11,000 people since my executive orders went into effect. Again, the folks that are coming from hotspots like New York City or New Orleans are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering the state of Florida.
Ron DeSantis: (05:25)
We are looking at, as you look at some of the statistics about what we’re seeing with caseload here in Florida, probably the number one message from the beginning for us has been those people who are 65 and older, particularly if you have an underlying condition, you really need to be staying at home and limiting your contacts with people because of the way this virus affects those in that age group. If you look at Florida’s cases, 25% of the cases are with people 65 and plus, 54% of the hospitalizations in Florida had been 65 and plus, and 86% of the fatalities have been 65 and plus, so please heed that directive to stay at home as much as possible and please limit contact with others.
Ron DeSantis: (06:18)
We want that for everybody, but particularly in that 65 and up category or people that have serious underlying conditions. Those are the folks that are the most at risk from this disease. We are continuing to monitor the bed availability. Numbers have been pretty similar. You see little movements here or there, but most of the major areas in terms of availability percentage are in the 40% range, but obviously we’re continuing to monitor that as well.
Ron DeSantis: (06:48)
There’ve been some questions about my order yesterday involving essential services and essential activities. People will say, “Well, can I go fly a kite? Can I do this? Can I do that?” I think the way to think about it is when you’re limiting people to essential services and essential activities, the goal is to reduce contacts with people outside the home. That is why that is in place. It’s less important what you do then how you do it. For example, if you want to go for a 10-mile run by yourself and come back, more power to you, but you wouldn’t be able to do a 20-person road race in the neighborhood with 19 of your friends. Is running an essential activity? Yes. If it’s done in consistent with social distancing guidelines. If you have a basketball hoop in your driveway, go shoot hoops all day. That’s fine, but you’re not going to be able to do a five on five pickup game where you’re going to be in close contact with other people.
Ron DeSantis: (07:50)
Someone wants to take their son fishing, by all means go do it, but you’re not going to be able to get 25 people on a boat and go fishing in some type of group outing. Less important about can you do X or Y, but simply how are you going to do X or Y?, and if you’re engaging in activity that doesn’t involve close contact with other people, you’re going to be fine. If you are doing things, even if you’re staying at home and you have 10-15 people at the house, that’s going to be close contacts with people and that’s what we’re trying to avoid. If you think about it that way, what we’re trying to do is reduce the transmission of the virus. Viruses have different reproduction rates, and this is a virus that typically transmits when people are in close contact with somebody else. So if you can refrain from that we can reduce the transmission rate, and if you reduce the transmission rate far enough, the virus can eventually have fewer places to go.
Ron DeSantis: (08:49)
That’s what we’re trying to do on that. I know people have had a lot of questions, but just think about if I’m engaging an essential or I’m engaging in essential activity, am I doing it in a way that’s limiting contacts? If you are, you’re probably going to be okay. If you’re doing things that have a lot of contacts, then it’s not going to be okay. With that, happy to take some questions?
Governor, one of the big questions we’re getting at our station is has anybody recovered yet? Of the 8,000 cases, is everyone still quarantined, or has it just not been long enough to know?
Ron DeSantis: (09:21)
No, I’m confident some have. We are not really keeping … The health isn’t publishing those statistics. It’s something that I’ve asked about, so I would like to see them then publish that. Now, obviously, you’ve got to follow people, and there’s some people who will present particularly in certain age groups, and you know that they don’t require real medical care. They just need to go home and be home for 14 days. I don’t know how much followup there is on those people, but I think it’s a good question. The other thing, what I’d like to see with the death statistics, obviously you can see it based off age, but what percentage of those fatalities involve people with significant underlying conditions? I think that would be … I think it’s a huge percentage, but that would also be another warning sign for somebody. Even if you’re not 65, if you have some of these conditions like diabetes, if you have immune system deficiencies, that this is definitely something you want to limit your contact with other people to be able to protect yourself. Yes, sir?
Governor, there’s a lot of questions about churches and religious exemptions. We’re curious if this still allows them to make rallies like we saw in [inaudible 00:10:36] County, and whether or not you’re [inaudible 00:10:38].
Ron DeSantis: (10:39)
So, one, I don’t think that the government has the authority to close the church. I’m certainly not going to do that. At the same time, we got with the churches and the synagogues very early and said, “In times like this would you guys are doing I think is even more important, but we ask that you do it in a way that is going to be conducive to this overall mission.” I would say almost all of them 100% agree. Some have gone virtual. Some have had people, but they’ve been spread out far enough. I mean, you guys are spread out here in this press conference. There’s no reason why you couldn’t do a church service with people 10 feet away.
Ron DeSantis: (11:14)
We definitely asked them to absolutely abide by the social distancing guidelines, but I think that in times like this, I think that the service that they’re performing is going to be very important for people, especially when you have difficult circumstances. So do it right. Make sure that you’re following the mission, but I think particularly coming up in the Easter season, I think people are going to want to have access to religious services, whether it’s online, whether it’s in a more socially distant type of service, but to have that available I think is very important.
Why didn’t you announce that order yesterday? There’s a lot of confusion. [inaudible 00:11:58].
Ron DeSantis: (11:57)
Now, look. People had questions, I didn’t actually think … I thought it was understood, so we just said, “Okay, we’ll clarify it and put it out there.” Basically, folks can … We have the baseline. If some folks want to do things more, then than they can do more in certain situations. We want to work with the local folks. I think each region in Florida is very distinct, and some of these things may need to be approached a little bit differently. I’m happy to work with them about it, and we’ve let everyone know that from the beginning.
So you’re saying that the [inaudible 00:12:32] allows local governments [inaudible 00:12:38]?
Ron DeSantis: (12:40)
Well, I don’t know that they would have the authority, quite frankly, to close a religious … The constitution doesn’t get suspended here. There’s got to be ways where you can accommodate. I would tell them work with the folks, work with the rabbis, work with the pastors to get it right, but I think it’s got to be more of a collaborative thing. But generally speaking, yeah, they can go beyond what I’ve done if they want to restrict access to certain areas. For example, we’re saying you can go out for a jog, and I know there’s running trails. If the local wants to just shut down the running trail and they want to do that then they can do it, and that’s just going to be their decision.
That’s not what was said. There’s confusion.
Ron DeSantis: (13:29)
No, our intent on that is we’re obviously doing essential services. We’re doing the restrictions on that, so they’re not going to be able to say, “Oh, well, the governor says you can’t have these types of contacts we think you can have,” so what we’re doing is setting a floor and they can’t go below the floor.
Governor, [inaudible 00:13:51] today and verify. There’s someone saying that walked into a major drug store chain and were required to spray down with Lysol, and then [inaudible 00:14:02]. Now, what does that say about the potential hysteria? What would you say to people?
Ron DeSantis: (14:08)
Well, I would defer to the CDC, as I have no idea whether that would even be effective to do, but, yeah, look. We’re in for a difficult time here. It’s not going to be easy. We have an invisible enemy. It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but I think you’ve got to keep your cool, and I think the more people behave based on hysteria or panic, I think the harder this is going to be a for everyone to come out well on the other side of it. Just keep calm, carry on, and let’s get through this. I haven’t seen that, and I’m not sure how much sense that makes, but it actually brings up another thing about kind of the local. For example, the grocery stores are an essential service, so you go to Publix, Costco, wherever. If a local jurisdiction wanted to say, the grocery stores are obviously open, but you can only be at 25% capacity and they want to set something up some, some ways to enforce more social distancing, then they can do that and that will be fine.
Governor, there have been [inaudible 00:15:16].
Ron DeSantis: (15:42)
I have to get back to you on that. I mean it was something that that we discussed a couple of weeks ago and, but we’ll follow up with you on that one.
What kind of considerations [inaudible 00:15:52].
Ron DeSantis: (15:58)
We’re probably not going to do that. I think if General Lynch comes to me and says that we need to do something, I’ll obviously listen to that. I have not been asked to do anything. Some of these other states have been really releasing a lot of people. Some of these people are very dangerous. I don’t see how, in a time of pandemic where people are on edge already, releasing felons into society would make a whole lot of sense. I think it makes everything we’re doing with social distancing more difficult, and I think as this wears on, you’re going to start to see society fray a little bit more, a little bit more. I think most people have hung in there, but that’s just the reality, so I don’t know that it would necessarily make things any better.
Governor, I just wanted [inaudible 00:16:39]. Like a good idea, but it wasn’t necessary?
Ron DeSantis: (16:50)
Well, look, I think they issued the advisory from the New York City area for people to refrain from non-essential travel, and we obviously had to put in a system in place so that we’re screening people who are coming in. I had been somebody who has said we don’t want to see flights from … I mean, we didn’t accept flights from Wuhan starting in February. I called for that restriction early and the president did it. I think that was a great decision. Then they did the same with Europe. You don’t want to receive flights from places that are the number one hot zones. At the same time, I have to acknowledge that when you’re talking about domestic air travel, there is a legitimate reason why you would be doing it. For example, New York City has had a lot of people fly in there to volunteer. You have different things, different folks, medical personnel. There is a reason to have it, so I don’t know that you would just not have it at all, but more restrictions in terms of out of the hot zones. But I think that there would be a need to be able to bring people into those zones if they’re helping with the fight.
Last question. After those flights, [inaudible 00:18:03] New York City had ordered its shutdown. [inaudible 00:18:09].
Ron DeSantis: (18:12)
No, no, no. That’s not true at all. The week leading up to the order, they were doing 20 to 25 flights a day. You get to the end of that week, as soon as the order came down, I think it was effective last Sunday, and you saw the flights go up to … I mean, they were 120, then 180. It got up to 200 direct flights a day into the state of Florida. We have all those numbers on that so that, so you’re saying is just totally false. The flights, people were leaving New York, and doesn’t it make sense that that would happen? We put in our system. We are screening people, requiring them to self isolate for 14 days. I think that was the prudent thing to do, because you have a lot of people who have been sacrificing … Miami has been shut down for a couple of weeks, and you have all these different things going on.
Ron DeSantis: (19:03)
Many people have lost jobs, kids are out of school, parents are stressed, so there’s a lot of sacrifices be going on to try to stop the spread of this thing. How is it fair, while you’re making all these sacrifices so it’s not spreading, to just have more people be coming in and potentially creating more seeds with the virus? I think it was the right thing to do, and what we’ve seen since then is you have seen a reduction in traffic since we put the order in place. I think even more than that, the flights in terms of how full they’ve been, I think that they’ve been under capacity, which again, it just makes it easier.