Apr 21, 2020

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Briefing April 21

Ron Desantis Florida Briefing April 21
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Briefing April 21

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a coronavirus press conference on April 21. He said Florida “has flattened the curve.” Full transcript here.

 

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Gov. Ron DeSantis: (00:02)
…of time until Florida’s hospital system was completely overwhelmed with COVID 19 patients. In fact, there was an article in March in the Miami Herald that said this week, this week in April, Florida could see 465,000 people hospitalized throughout the state of Florida. The reality, slightly more than 2,000. Those predictions have been false. Our work is succeeding. We have flattened the curve. In fact, not only did the hospital system not get overwhelmed, since the pandemic started, available hospital beds have increased in the state of Florida, not decreased. We started with about 1,500 400 beds available towards the end of March. We now have 22,000 beds available. We’ve also dramatically increased ICU bed availability. And that was what flattening the curve was all about because if the healthcare system gets overwhelmed, that’s obviously bad for COVID 19 patients. It’s also bad for other people that have other ailments. And so those predictions were made time and time and time again and they were wrong.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (01:26)
What we’ve done has worked. And I think we’re looking at a lot of capacity in the hospitals and, quite frankly, you’re starting to see people get laid off who aren’t addressing COVID patients because there’s not as much business going on, but we are going to work on getting these elective procedures back in because I think it’s very, very important. We were prudent though about how we did it. We planned for the worst. We set up field hospitals in places like Miami Dade and Broward County had potential to go in southwest Florida, northeast Florida, central Florida. Even got the Army Corps of Engineers to help put in hospital beds in the Miami Beach Convention Center. All those field hospitals and available beds sit empty today and that’s a very, very good thing.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (02:18)
So we did not go the way of Italy. We did not go the way of New York city. In fact, we’ve done much, much better than either of those places. And so I want to thank people for what they’ve done to make that a reality. We’re continuing to work on expanding testing. We’ve aggressively tested. Florida’s now tested close to 280,000 individuals in the state of Florida. One of the things that we look at is the rate of people who test positive. If you look at some of these states, they have 30, 35, 40% of everyone that gets tested test positive. In Florida, that number has been declining. It’s about 10%. but if you actually look at the numbers, I think it’s even a little bit better than that.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (03:07)
When Florida tests, the Department of Health reports every new case that comes in. So yesterday I think it was about 760. But then if you look at the total tests, there’ll be positives that are greater than that number. And the reason is is because when someone tests positive, in order for them to get out of quarantine, they need to test negative two times in a row. Well sometimes they test at the end of the 14 day and they still have virus so they test positive. So those positive results are included in that 10%. So if you look at just the new people who are coming in, the actual positive rate is probably closer to 8%, which is a very, very good thing in a lot of places. And even with Miami still being 15 or 16%, that shows you throughout the state a very good, good story to tell.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (03:56)
And I think that we’ve done a good job of really… If you look at a lot of the other states that have, Massachusetts, Michigan, some of those ones that have more infections than us, we’ve done way more tests so our positivity rate is a fraction of what theirs is. And I think that that’s really, really good. We did it through bringing testing to the people as much as we could. We did supported or ran eight drive through testing sites. Those have now tested over 60,000 people in the state of Florida. The National Guard teams that have been deployed as strike teams for our assisted living facilities and nursing homes have tested over 3,400 individuals in 21 different facilities and they’re doing more every day to try to identify any outbreaks in those very vulnerable facilities. Our innovative walkup sites where we’re actually going to underserved communities, walking up, offering people the ability to test conveniently has already done 1,157 tests, and that’s just one weekend, and so they’re going to do more and continue going.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (05:05)
We’re also working hard, and actually have reached one agreement, we’re trying to get as many options as can for increased lab capacity. If you listen to what people at the task force have been saying at the White House about unlocking some of the capacity that’s out there, we think there’s opportunities to do that, partially because the federal government is now paying more for each test. So we do have an agreement with a company where I think we’re going to be able to get 8,000 tests in a 24 to 48 hour period. We’re looking to do more, hopefully more in the state of Florida, but I’ve also directed the Department of Health, let’s outfit our state labs with these high throughput machines. Right now the Florida Department of Health’s three labs do about 900 tests a day. And that’s helpful and we appreciate that, but that’s not going to be nearly enough to be able to have a testing throughout the state the way we need it.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (06:01)
Now, obviously most of this is being done privately and we’re still going to use that. But wouldn’t it be great if we had our own machines in all of those labs that could do thousands and thousands of tests each a day? Our surgeon general thinks that if we got the right machines, we may be able to do close to 20,000 a day just in the state labs. So we’re working on that. I told them to do that because I think that’d be very, very important. We’re also moving forward with the serological testing for the antibodies to try to see who has these antibodies throughout the state of Florida. So we’re going to be… The Department of Health is speaking to the CEO of the company that has the FDA approved tests. This is trying to catch a flight from China and we were told we would get it by the end of the week, but you know how these things are, but we’re really, really pushing for this because I think it’s going to be really, really significant.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (06:53)
What was done in Los Angeles, what was done in Santa Clara County, that’s very important for informing our knowledge about this virus and about who it affects and how it affects. The University of Miami, I want to give them a lot of credit. They’re working with Miami Dade County. They are conducting a serological testing experiment in Miami Dade County. And they’re doing it actually a little bit different than what was done in Santa Clara. They’re doing random sampling, which is really the best way to do it because if you just let people respond then the people that had a scratch in their throat a month ago are going to be more likely than just the population as a whole.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (07:30)
So I think they have a great methodology. They’re getting some interesting results. They’re back in the field today. But I want to commend them for what they’re doing. I think it’s going to be greatly illuminating in terms of how these antibodies may be present throughout one part of our state, but the one county in our state that has clearly had more cases than anywhere else. And so that is going to be a big part of this moving forward and we are totally committed to doing as much as we can to really make an impact in that area.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (08:01)
We’ve been doing nonstop logistics. One of the things we did early was give the N95 masks and require personal protective equipment at the assisted living facilities and nursing homes. That makes a huge difference, particularly if you have a staff member that’s asymptomatic. We have done another major PPE push of protective equipment to the healthcare workers in our longterm care facilities. So this includes another 4 million masks, it includes 200,000 face shields and it includes 500,000 gloves. And if you look at how this virus has affected the population, in the state of Florida, the fatalities are between 80 and 85% 65 and older. So those longterm care facilities are uniquely vulnerable to this virus spreading. And so we focused very intently on this from the very beginning. We’re going to continue to do this and continue. We’re also looking at other things that may make a difference to be able to help because I think that’s the best way to be able to save lives.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (09:07)
We’re still monitoring the travel into the state of Florida. We’ve had close to 25,000 folks screened out of the New York City area mostly, some in [inaudible 00:09:17] New York City. I’m working on compiling the data. When you look at our report, we have Florida resident cases, then we have cases from people who are non Florida residents. I don’t have the full information from the start but the recent information, the plurality have been from the New York City area, who are not Florida residents but have tested positive in the state of Florida. But I think that’s important information for the people of Florida to be able to have. We are putting out updates via text message. FLCOVID19, you text that to 888777. FLCOVID19, 888777.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (09:58)
We appreciate everything everyone’s doing. I know it’s tough but I think we’re on a positive course here. We just got to keep going and make sure we move ahead in a smart and safe direction and I know a lot of Floridians are looking to do that as well. And with that, we’ll take some questions. Yes, sir.

Speaker 2: (10:14)
[inaudible 00:00:10:13].

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (10:30)
So we are going to have… I’m going to do a presentation on this this week. We’ve made a lot of great progress. In the last 24 hours they have done close to 150,000 claims, a combination of direct deposit, debit cards and RA, the direct deposit from the federal, $600 RA and then debit cards. There’s been a lot of great work done on this system. Look, this system, the fact that the state paid 77 million for this thing, I mean it’s a jalopy. So we’ve got a lot of great talent in there working on fixing it. But you also have a situation where it’s not just the state, you have federal databases that are being pinged. And guess what? Those are being stressed too. It’s very slow.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (11:12)
So we’re working on ways to be able to get that done in a way that works. But we’re going to have a… I’m going to bring the secretary in, we’re going to have hopefully a great presentation because there’s been a huge amount of progress, it’s been very difficult, but you had people working really nonstop. But this whole weekend they’re doing stuff on this system and we’re definitely in a better spot than we were.

Speaker 3: (11:32)
Governor, the regional [inaudible 00:11:31]?

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (11:42)
Well, what I said, so we’re working with those other governors, but at the same time, I have multiple regions in my own state. And so Florida is just a little bit different. We have situation where the area of the state that has 30% of the population, southeast Florida, has over 60% of the fatalities and over 60% of the hospitalizations and close to 60% of the infections. And we’ve worked with them from the beginning, but we viewed that as a little different than some of the challenges that have faced other parts of the state. We’ve had some parts of the state that have just done absolutely fantastic throughout all this.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (12:19)
You see some of these White House people try to mention Jacksonville. Dr. Burks is just shutting them down because she said Jacksonville has done such a great job. Northeast Florida’s done a great job. The Tampa Bay area has done a great job. There’s been whole numbers of places that have done very, very well that have millions of people. So we think that that’s a positive. But I [inaudible 00:12:39] them, but at the same time, I’ve got to work with my own regions in my state I think is really important.

Speaker 4: (12:45)
Yeah, go ahead.

Speaker 5: (12:45)
You’ve mentioned that public perception is critical [inaudible 00:12:49].

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (12:58)
Criticizing the news media how?

Speaker 5: (13:01)
Well you’ve been saying that new media [inaudible 00:13:02].

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (13:05)
Did you guys say that Florida’s hospitals were going to be overrun? Did you write that article? I think you were on that byline with the Miami Herald. You never cited any of those projections in your newspaper? Well people did in one of your… I mean, so people were saying that. They were saying that we weren’t going on the right their path. They were saying that there were all these things. A lot of that was politically motivated. A lot of these outlets have clear agendas. We know that. But at the same time, you can’t erase that. I mean, when those things are said, we’re going to show that Florida did better than any of the projections that people have made and that’s just the reality. That’s not criticizing, that’s just telling the truth and it’s putting facts ahead of a preferred narrative. Yes, sir.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (14:00)
Do I have Democrats on the task force?

Speaker 6: (14:02)
[inaudible 00:00:14:01].

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (14:03)
Do I have Democrats on… No, I have more than that.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (14:06)
Yeah. So you don’t even know. You don’t even know if I have Democrats on the… Of course I have Democrats on the task force. Have you not been watching the last six weeks? The three most Democratic counties in Florida? We’ve poured probably 75% of our time, resources and effort into those. Not because party matters. It doesn’t. When you have situations like this. You got to rise above the partisanship. And I have not been political with any of this stuff. We’ve worked with all those folks, day after day, whatever they needed, we’ve worked with them constructively and we’re going to continue to do it. We’re not going to politic. I’ve not politicked on this. Some of the other folks have, but, but I haven’t done it and I don’t think that’s the right way to go.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (14:49)
When you’re in these situations, all those little things that people try to get an advantage here, try to do this there, you’ve got to put that aside and you got to work for the common good and that’s what we’ve done.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (15:20)
Well, that’s part of the reason I want the task force to be there. I want them to give me their ideas about what a day looks like. If you look at what the White House has put out, they want 14 days of the influenza illness going down. We’ve been going down on that for awhile. And then they want a downward trajectory in cases, we have that. And then they want a downward trajectory in the rate of positive for that. And so I think we meet those, but at the same time, I think you want to make sure that you’re going about this in the right way. So we have a lot of this stuff in place till April 30th and then we’ll see what it looks like after that. But I haven’t set a specific date because I think it’s more important to do it right than necessarily try to have an artificial deadline.

Speaker 8: (16:06)
Governor, [inaudible 00:16:05]?

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (16:14)
Yeah. No, definitely. I mean, I can’t tell you when we did that because of the people said the hospitals were going to be overrun. We wanted to make sure we had capacity and protect PPE. But I’ve talked to a lot of the hospitals and I said, If you tell me you have the ability to handle COVID patients…” I mean, we’ve seen a decline. Obviously we’ve got a lot of capacity, but let’s just say there was an uptick. Can you handle it? Do you have the PPE? And then are you going to be willing to help in your community at longterm care and nursing homes? Now, the Cleveland Clinic does a great job. They will go in if something happens in a nursing home, they’ll start testing because it’s in their interest to be able to stop a cluster there so you don’t have 20, 30 people end up in the hospital.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (16:58)
So if they’re all doing that, then I think that they need to be turned back on. So I’m working with Mary Mayhew on that, but that absolutely has to happen. I can’t tell you when it’s going to happen, but it’s something I’m committed to getting done. These folks, I mean the flatten the curve was preserve healthcare resources, don’t let the infection spike above what the hospital’s had capacity for. And we’ve done that for sure. But what’s happening is the capacity is starting to go down, not on this COVID end, but because of some of these other things that people aren’t able to do. So I think that we need to do it pretty quickly because if we keep it up the way we’re going, I think more people are going to get laid off and I think there’s going to be less financial viability for some of these health care outfits, which is very important. Yes, sir.

Speaker 9: (17:45)
Governor, a topic that didn’t come up in this mornings task force was vacation rentals. And I know the deadline for that is coming up at the end of the month. Are you planning on extending that ban?

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (17:55)
I’d like to hear what they have to say about it. So I haven’t made a decision on that yet. I mean, we’re going to see what it looks like, but I think people have really been thinking really critically about this stuff and I’ve been really impressed with the folks I’ve talked to. They understand I think in the business community, the ability to do it safely and have people have confidence in that and they’re working on a whole bunch of different ways to be able to do that. And that’s really across industries. But I’ve been really impressed with that and I look forward to getting more feedback. Yes, one more

Speaker 10: (18:25)
[inaudible 00:00:18:25] possible bench orders and whatnot. The general consensus here [inaudible 00:00:18:32] here in Tallahassee and [inaudible 00:18:35] and what have you, do they agree about the [inaudible 00:18:38] or are they raising concerns? What are you hearing that’s causing [inaudible 00:18:45] voicing your frustration with some of the-

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (18:48)
I’m not voicing frustration, I’m just making sure that the facts are getting out there. I mean when things are put out, a narrative is created that Florida’s about to be capsized by this flight of sick people and it doesn’t happen then people need to realize that a lot of what was said there has not been proven to be true. Now, part of that is because I think we’ve done a good job on it, but I think that’s important. Because I think that we need to be frank and honest about what this virus represents. We shouldn’t dismiss it. And I was in January saying it was serious and that we needed to restrict travel from China. And there was a lot of folks in, particularly the national media who were saying, “Worry about the flu. Don’t worry about this.” Even as late as March, you had people saying, “Go do all this.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (19:35)
Or whatever. So I’ve always viewed it as serious, but at the same time, we need to understand who’s at risk, we need to understand all the facts surrounding it. And I think that will put people a little bit more at ease as they’re able to do it. So the fact that we’re in a situation here where we have the most vulnerable population in the country, that was why people said we were going to be worse than New York, that was why people said we were going to be worse than Italy. We obviously moved very early to protect those vulnerable populations. And I think that that’s been successful, it’s not easy.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (20:11)
You can’t always do, do everything. You can’t prevent every, every problem, unfortunately. But I think we’ve done a good job on that. And then we did that. And so now we’re in a situation where we know that the hospitals are not going to get overrun. We know that the number one thing that people were concerned about with this was that type of catastrophe. That’s not going to happen. That has not happened. We have all these extra beds and field hospitals and nobody’s there. So that’s a very good thing.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (20:42)
And I think people should be happy with that. I think that they should be happy with the fact that we have… We’re basically, California and us, we’ll be ahead than there’ll be ahead in terms of raw testing. In terms of per capita testing, which is probably a better, when we started this, we were at the almost the bottom. We’re now, I think we’re in the top 20 maybe, or 25 for sure, and we’re continuing to move up that ranking. And then if you look at southeast Florida per capita, we would definitely be in the top 25 if that was a separate state because we put so much resources there. And then we have a plan to do even more.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (21:16)
So I think people as they’re looking at the next phase should understand, we’re all in on diagnostic testing, we’re all in on serological testing. They’re both very, very important. So we will actually have, and we’re working with emergency management on this, we’ll probably have more testing sites in the next phase than even in this phase because we don’t know how it’s going to pop up or what we want employers to be able to send people to these places and I think that that’s important.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (21:45)
So yeah, look, I think that, I think folks… In all my time, I mean I was in college when 9/11 happened. That was obviously a traumatic event for the country. And the financial crisis upended a lot. But I don’t think that neither of those rival this in terms of the amount of fear and panic that this instilled. And I think it’s important just tell people we’re going to be okay. We’re not out of the woods. This is something we’re going to have to deal with. But if you look at where we are today versus where we were six weeks ago, a lot of the predictions that were made time and time again, I would say that nobody predicted that we would be in the spot that we are right now. So that’s a good thing.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: (22:28)
It doesn’t mean the work’s done, but I think that we’re on the right track. And I think it’s because Floridians have really pulled together and I think worked really well regardless of party. Particularly, I mean the southeast Florida, those folks have been great to work with. Every single day, we’re working with them in different ways. And so I’m hopeful that we’re going to come out of this strong. It’s not going to be easy. I wish it never happened. But sometimes you rise to the occasion and I think the people of Florida have done that and I thank them for it. Thanks.