Apr 29, 2020
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Briefing April 29
Ron DeSantis: (00:00)
Traditional graduations have been canceled and so have senior proms. These moments will be forever lost. Working parents have had to juggle the new reality of distance learning, all the while trying to put food on the table and of course our kids haven’t been able to see their grandparents. This is something that my wife, Casey and I know well. Our newborn daughter Mamie has yet to be held by any of her grandparents.
Ron DeSantis: (00:29)
Today though, Florida will take a step, small, deliberate, methodical and based on consultation with some of our greatest physicians towards a more hopeful future. We do have hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Now, I’ll outline the steps that we’ll be taking going forward. This new phase will start on Monday, and will for the time being exclude Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. These counties have seen the lion’s share of the state’s epidemic but they are trending in a positive direction. I am working with them and will continue to work with them and I do believe that they will be able to move to phase one very soon.
Ron DeSantis: (01:14)
We will get Florida back on its feet by using an approach that is safe, smart, and step by step. What is our biggest obstacle? Fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear sparked by constant doom and gloom and hysteria that has permeated our culture for the last six weeks. For example, we’ve seen a sudden drop in the number of people who are seeking medical care for heart problems and stroke symptoms, not because these common ailments have all of a sudden disappeared, but because people are terrified of going to the hospital because of the Coronavirus. This will have huge health consequences in the very near future. It will almost assuredly result in excessive fatalities. Fear is our enemy.
Ron DeSantis: (02:07)
Now, we’re a resourceful people with a can do spirit. We can do what we need to do to protect our vulnerable populations from the Coronavirus while taking safe, smart steps toward rebuilding Florida’s foundation.
Ron DeSantis: (02:22)
Now, these steps will be deliberate. It will not be like turning off a switch, but each step will bring us closer to that light at the end of the tunnel. The only thing we have to fear is letting fear overwhelm our sense of purpose and determination.
Ron DeSantis: (02:40)
Now, I’m going to outline the thoughts, the data that has led us to pursue this course, and this is something that we’ve been working on for a long time and I think it’s something that’s very, very important. So we are going to be guided in this recovery process by certain fundamental guiding principles, public health and safety, and this is brought it to the fore even more, but this is something we should be concerned about across the board, even apart from the Coronavirus.
Ron DeSantis: (03:14)
We also want to make sure we have our vulnerable populations protected. We know that this virus is far more damaging to people who are elderly or who have significant underlying medical conditions, and we need to do things such as what Florida has done to protect nursing homes and continue to do that going forward.
Ron DeSantis: (03:34)
We also need to make sure our healthcare system is ready, make sure we have adequate resources and beds and the staff is protected. We obviously need an economic recovery. The problems that will result if you have protracted, massive unemployment are significant in the realm of health, in the realm of social costs and of course in the realm of economic activity.
Ron DeSantis: (03:56)
We also are going to protect people’s civil liberties and constitutional and individual rights. There’ve been wide ranging and punitive orders issued in various regions of this country. People have rights. The government needs to protect health, but we should not go beyond what is necessary to do that. We also want public confidence. One of the reasons we’re going to take a very slow and methodical approach is because we want to make sure we build as much confidence as possible with the general public. And we’re also going to be partnering with local communities, which is what we did from the very beginning. We knew the epidemic was going to be different in Southeast Florida and we worked with those counties differently and treated them differently than we would in say, Jacksonville or Northwest Florida where the epidemic was significantly less.
Ron DeSantis: (04:46)
Our plan from the beginning to fight COVID-19 is going to continue. Nothing’s going to change about that. We are going to continue to protect the vulnerable. We are going to continue to increase testing and I will outline those steps in a minute. We’ll continue to promote various forms of social distancing. There’s a, I think, unfortunate habit of people particularly in the media to conflate shelter in place with social distancing. Social distancing involves a whole host of things that can be done to help reduce the spread of the virus.
Ron DeSantis: (05:21)
Number four, we have to support hospital capacity and our healthcare workers. We’ve done that. We’ll continue to do it. And then we want to prevent the introduction of the virus from outside the state. We did that when we screened the people fleeing New York city. We’ve done I think 25 to 30,000 of those. We’re also talking with the president about when international flights are coming into places like Miami, what could we do in terms of testing people before they get on the plane so that it’s not constantly being introduced to our society.
Ron DeSantis: (05:54)
We need to focus on facts and not fear. And I think that there’s been a lot that’s been done to try to promote fear, to promote worst case scenarios, to drive hysteria. And I think people should know that that worst case scenario thinking, that has not proven to be true. So let’s just take a quick look so people know.
Ron DeSantis: (06:16)
We were told over and over again, Florida was going to be just like New York when it came to the Coronavirus. Well, let’s look at the tail of the tape. How close are we to New York? Oops, back there. Fatalities. Obviously a much different picture. This is equal population per 100,000 much, much less. Even if you did absolute numbers, we have 2 million more people, New York, far, far and above what Florida is. Same thing with hospitalizations. Hospitalization rate, that is a mere fraction of what you see, not just in New York, but many other States. And so saying Florida was going to be like New York was wrong and people need to know was wrong.
Ron DeSantis: (07:03)
Second, Florida will be like an Uber, Italy. So not just like Italy, way worse than Italy, is what they were trying to say. Well, let’s see what ended up happening. Let’s look at the tale of the tape. Okay. Italy hospitalizations per 100,000 versus Florida. Yeah, I think Italy was a little worse than Florida there and that’s not even close. What about fatalities? How about fatalities? Again, per 100,000 apples to apples comparison, not even close. So no, Florida was not an Uber Italy at all.
Ron DeSantis: (07:36)
We’ve talked about hospital capacity and I remember reading that by last week, so this was in March, they said by April 24th, Florida would have 465,000 people hospitalized because of COVID-19. Well that is something that’s really scary, especially when you consider Florida only has 70,000 licensed hospital beds. So if you’re predicting that you’re predicting the biggest break of the healthcare system probably in human history. So what ended up happening? So that’s the 465,000, way up there for hospitalizations. You look down, 2,111 hospitalization. So they were off by about 463,000 hospitalizations. Again, that was a scary thing when you’re saying that because you would have hundreds of thousands of people that would have no medical care at all and you would have way excessive fatalities. It would be an absolute catastrophe. So we’re at 2000, they predicted 460,000.
Ron DeSantis: (08:43)
Projections say the state could run out of ICU beds by April 14th. Very scary. If you need to be in intensive care, you need certain types of treatment and there’s no beds, what’s going to happen? Obviously that’s not going to be good. Well, what did happen? Florida’s ICU bed availability today, 36.5% of the ICU beds in the state of Florida sit empty. We didn’t run out of ICU beds.
Ron DeSantis: (09:12)
Ventilators. When no more ventilators are left. They said there will likely come a point where there will be no more ventilators to shuffle around and then what happens next? Again, doom and gloom. People are in trouble. They have lung problems because of Coronavirus and there’s only three ventilators, but you have 10 patients, what happens? That was constantly put out as something that was going to happen. So what did happen? Florida’s never had a shortage of ventilators, not even close. In fact, here’s the ventilator usage. So we have about 379 patients currently on ventilators. We have 6,300 plus ventilators sitting idle, unused, in the state of Florida. Nobody was going without a ventilator. So again, the facts should be more comforting than the fear.
Ron DeSantis: (10:07)
Now, this was the famous graph about flattening the curve. The whole reason the country went on mitigation, the reason why Florida took certain steps with mitigation is because there was a fear that if the virus was able to just run rampant, it would spike infections, it would overwhelm the hospital system and that would lead to excessive fatalities. And so the goal of reducing the curve was to keep the infections underneath that hospital capacity. That’s the reason why we went on what we’ve done. And as you can see, not only did we not reach hospital capacity, we’re far under what hospital capacity is in the state of Florida. There was never a time when there were beds that were needed. And so the curve was flattened. The hospital system held up. And the main reason why we embarked on mitigation, that goal has been satisfied, and not just here, but in many places around the country.
Ron DeSantis: (11:07)
So facts should be comforting. We’ve done much better than everybody said we would do, and we’re going to continue to apply fact-based, data-driven approach to the problems that are before us. So when the president and his task force came out with the gating criteria, Florida was in a position where we knew we were going to very likely satisfy the criteria. So here’s the criteria we had to go through. I sent what Florida was doing to Dr. Birx. I spoke with her again at the white house. I spoke with the president’s team. They agree that Florida is ready to go to phase one. So they look at the syndromatic, last two weeks of syndromatic data.
Ron DeSantis: (11:51)
So you look at cough associated emissions, you’ve seen a big drop since late March into February and that’s pretty consistent with us seeing fewer hospitalizations for COVID-19. And also influenza like illness visits, obviously, pretty significant drop there since March and that’s been pretty consistent throughout most of the state. They also say look at the number of cases and do you have a declining trend of cases? We do have that. One thing I think is interesting to point out here, if you look at early April when we hit our top caseload on April 3rd and you look at those dates around there, you kind of go, the beginning of April and then really for the next probably week to 10 days, except for that one Sunday, you pretty consistently had at least a thousand cases, new cases every day.
Ron DeSantis: (12:38)
Now, we started to test more there and so it was kind of a linear increase from the testing increases. But at the same time, if you look in the last maybe 10 to 14 days, you’re under a thousand new cases every single day except the times where there were backlog data dumps from the labs. And so the one time that we had the 1200, we got like 23,000 test results that day. So it was the biggest data dump we’ve had. And so I think we’ve expanded testing more in the last two, we’re testing more in the last two weeks of April than we did in the first two, and yet you’re consistently seeing lower numbers in terms of new cases. But that’s really not the most important indicator. And the criteria said, you look at the new case trend or the positivity rate trend, and the reason why you would do that is the case trend, if you test more, you’re going to find more. We know there’s a lot of asymptomatic people out there. So as Florida tests more and more, we will find new cases.
Ron DeSantis: (13:38)
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The positivity rate is really significant because that’s an indication of how widely this is circulating, how aggressively it’s circulating to the community. And you’ll look over the last two weeks, we’ve seen a consistent decrease, average decrease in the positivity rate. The last four or five days we’ve been in the four and a half, five, 6% just to put that in perspective, and you can look at like a New Jersey, I think they’re at 40 or 50% of all their tests, test positive. Even New York, they’ve really improved and they’re still I think 25 to 30%. so you see way different numbers throughout the country.
Ron DeSantis: (14:16)
We were never really that bad. We had some of those days where we were 15, but we kind of were settled into the 10 to 12 to 13% and a lot of that was driven by Miami Dade in those early days of late March, early April. Even Dade’s positivity has gone down. You look as we’ve done the test sites in Palm Beach, they were at 18% probably two weeks ago, they’re now closer to 10%. And so that is really, I think the trend that we like to look at. So you qualify either way, but I prefer the case positivity trend.
Ron DeSantis: (14:48)
And then the final criteria is you have to be able to have crisis care with your hospital system. Well, we have more beds available. We have more beds available today in the state of Florida than on March 1st and by a significant number…
Ron DeSantis: (15:03)
… Than on March 1st, and by a significant number, and March 1st was when the pandemic was just getting underway, so that’s saying something. The hospitals have done a great job with this, we’ve done a great job of really making sure that we had the space if you had a surge of patients. And so those are the gating criteria that they’re satisfied, here you see the increase from March until April in terms of that’s available beds throughout the state of Florida. I mean, we had under 20% available at the beginning of March.
Ron DeSantis: (15:28)
And typically these hospitals, they do run 90% full. Here, we’ve been running pretty consistently between 40 and 45% of the beds have been available over the last five or six weeks. This is just giving you a sense of where Florida is, how we stack up for some of the other states, so case rate per 100,000 of the population. We’ve tested more frequently than Texas, so I think that’s probably one of the reasons they have. I’d say California and us have probably tested somewhat… they’ve tested more now than us, but they’re bigger than us, so I think we’re probably pretty similar, and then you look how that would change for other states.
Ron DeSantis: (16:06)
So because we have a low positivity rate even as we’ve expanded testing, we haven’t seen an explosion of new cases, which is a good thing. Hospitalizations per 100,000, again, you look where Florida is through all this other stuff. I can tell you if we had 464,000 like they said, that number would be 500, not 9.8. So we’ve not had huge… I think our hospitalization rate is somewhere about 6% of everyone that tests positive. Most people were forecasting originally you’d have a 10 to 13% hospitalization rate, so the hospitalization rate’s gone down.
Ron DeSantis: (16:43)
Actually our positive tests, you started to see more in the younger population as a percent, and when they’re doing that, they’re much less likely to get hospitalized if they’re under 50. Of course, if they don’t have a significant condition, it’s very, very low. There’s some ICU hospitalizations, which is very important. ICU beds, that’s the critical care that you need, we’re low on that comparative.
Ron DeSantis: (17:08)
This is interesting. We’re moving forward to phase one, we’re going to treat southeast Florida differently. I think they can get to phase one because I do think they’re declining, but you look at some of the other major metro areas, major areas, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa, and look at those numbers compared to some of the other states throughout the country. You’ve seen, they’ve done a really good job of having few hospitalizations per 100,000, and having low fatality rates per 100,000. So my hat’s off to those folks, because I think that they’ve done very, very well.
Ron DeSantis: (17:44)
In fact, if you took out southeast Florida and did the other 16 million folks and divided it by cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities, we would be incredibly low, and I think there was a lot of good work done. And quite frankly, southeast Florida, they just had a lot of people from New York City coming down, that’s kind of the normal thing. People didn’t know that they were bringing the virus in February and early March, and so that was really the seeding of that, and I think that those other communities didn’t have that quite to the same extent.
Ron DeSantis: (18:14)
We have hospitalizations, very small. I was in Tampa, Tampa General, I think they had 37 people hospitalized for Covid in the county. County’s like 1.4, 1.5 million people. Incredible, the predictions would have had that way, way more than that, so those are good trends. And then fatality, same thing, picture. Their rates are so dramatically lower from other areas throughout the country.
Ron DeSantis: (18:42)
Longterm care facilities, if you look outside of southeast Florida, the fight to protect lives really centers on these longterm care facilities. We’ve done a lot, I was able to go up to the White House and work with the president on some issues for Florida, but they were impressed with what we’ve done, wanted me to give a little presentation. So we did do that, and we were very proactive from the beginning, not just in limiting access, making sure the staff had to be screened for fever and sickness before they went in, but also sending people who knew about infection control, who could ascertain the needs of each facility. And now we have National Guard going out and doing testing at these places, which is just fantastic.
Ron DeSantis: (19:26)
And then Jared Moskowitz, our Emergency Management Director, he’s pushed out 7 million masks just to longterm care facilities, a million gloves, half a million face shields, all these different things so that the workers are protected and that they’re not infecting the residents. Now it’s a very tough issue, because you can have asymptomatic staff go in there and they can spread it to the other staff, and this thing just spreads like wildfire when that happens. So you obviously don’t want that to happen, but if it does, if you can identify the cluster and isolate them before it gets throughout the nursing home, then that’s a great thing.
Ron DeSantis: (20:03)
So this is going to continue to be one of our top priorities. Our rate of fatalities for longterm care facilities is way less than many of these other states. We really should be number one given our demographics, but this has made a difference and we’re going to continue to do it. When you look at the fatalities in Florida, I would just point out when they’re reported is not the same as when they actually suffered the fatality. So there was a report the other day where you had more, but then if you look at the dates of the fatalities, which is really what you need to look at to spot any type of trends, that is put up by date. So you see the run-up as we got into to April, and then we have seen a down tick.
Ron DeSantis: (20:45)
Now, some of those days may end up getting backfilled, so you may see some more as the reports come in, because sometimes these things are held for four or five days before they’re reported to the Department of Health, but that’s the trajectory. Obviously we don’t want to see any fatalities. Same time, having 40 or something in a day for how big our state is compared to… just compare it to a borough in New York City, and they would have hundreds, sometimes a day, which was obviously unfortunate.
Ron DeSantis: (21:13)
So the testing, part of our strategy in phase one is to expand testing beyond what we’ve already done. Now we have pioneered, I think, the concept of walk-up testing. We did all these drive through sites, which are very important, but we knew that there were underserved communities that could benefit from having a walkup testing site. So we have a number of them across the state, Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Leon, Palm Beach County, and we have a revolving one in Orange County, which is great. We have new ones coming online in Miami-Dade, in Riviera Beach, and then in Collier County and Immokalee, which is an underserved community.
Ron DeSantis: (21:55)
So you’re going to actually have that in Immokalee, people will be able to walk up and be able to do it. So there’ll be like 11 of these things throughout the state, that’s bringing testing to people who may not be seeking out the testing. The drive through sites are great, but we can’t force anyone to do it, they either go or they don’t. So these walk-up sites are really important, and we want to be able to spot trends in some of the underserved communities because one, you can maybe isolate that, but then two, obviously, be able to have the appropriate medical care.
Ron DeSantis: (22:27)
So that’s already done, this is a concept we rolled out about two weeks ago. They’ve already done 6,300, and they’re doing many more every day. So we really appreciate the folks who are working so hard on that. The drive through testing sites, the state supports a number of them throughout the state. We’re going to continue supporting all of those. I’m going to have National Guard continue to be out there so that people can be tested. So you have Hard Rock stadium in Miami, Jacksonville, Jaguar stadium, Orange County Convention Center, CB Smith park in Broward, which is probably our most popular site anywhere in the state.
Ron DeSantis: (23:01)
You have the Marlin stadium, you have the Bucs stadium, you have the spring training facility in West Palm Beach, and then you have the one in Del Ray Beach. When you have the testing, it matters. Palm Beach, they had about a 18 to 20% positive rate. We put those two test centers in, moving through hundreds of people a day, now their positive rate is I think 11%, because as you expand testing more people have access, you get a better sense of how it’s moving throughout the community. So I think that that’s been very successful. I made the point at the White House, and this is just a fact, all those sites had the capacity to do at least 750 drive-in swabs a day. We are not at capacity on any of those, and if you have symptoms… We don’t do minors, but if you’re 18 or over, you have symptoms, go.
Ron DeSantis: (23:52)
If you’re a healthcare worker, first responder, you want to get tested, go. If you are somebody who doesn’t even have symptoms but just thinks you may have been exposed, go ahead and go. We do have the capacity, we’ve not run out of capacity in any places. If we obviously get to the point where we do, then we will expand accordingly, but that is just the reality that we’ve been doing.
Ron DeSantis: (24:13)
In phase one we want to even do more sites though, because for example, the CB Smith site in Broward is great, but that’s in the western part of Broward County. What about something closer to the downtown business district? Someone’s going back to work, they have an issue, they want to get a quick test, have a place to go. So we’re going to put one in Fort Lauderdale, we’re going to put one in the Florida panhandle and Escambia County.
Ron DeSantis: (24:34)
Now they have not had a significant outbreak compared to other parts of southeast Florida, but it’s important to be able to have the access for our folks in northwest Florida. Lee County, we’re going to have one on the Lee/Collier border most likely. No, actually we’re going to do it at the Twins stadium. So we’re going to do it at the Minnesota Twins stadium, and people will be able to go into the parking lot and do that. We’re also going to do Sarasota/Manatee, because I think you do need more testing. Manatee has had nursing home outbreak, so having this center may help, maybe some workers will go.
Ron DeSantis: (25:05)
We are sending National Guard in that area, but I think that that will be a very good thing. And then in Miami-Dade, we’re actually going to have a hybrid drive in and walk in site at the Miami Beach Convention Center, so the people that want to walk up can go on one side of the building, people that want to drive can go on the other side of the building. So all of these will have the capacity to probably do at least 750 tests a day. And because we have the high throughput lab contracts, everything that comes through there, we can send to those. Some of the hospitals are involved in this, and they test themselves and get good results. So all of that is on the table and we think that that’s very important as we move forward.
Ron DeSantis: (25:46)
Now, more labs. So this is really exciting, we’ve been able to procure an RV that has a mobile lab inside of it. So we’re going to be able to take this mobile lab in the RV, drive it to different parts of Florida, and then we have a 45 minute test. I was working at the White House, I was working with Jared Kushner, we’ve got it set up. We’re going to have 15,000 of these tests, we’re going to be able to do 3,500 a week. So you can go to a nursing home, you can have all the staff come get tested, put it in the cartridges, the residents, and you get an answer within an hour. So you would talk about identifying an outbreak and then keeping the cluster contained.
Ron DeSantis: (26:27)
This is going to be a huge tool for us, so we think we’re going to be using it for healthcare workers, for nursing homes, and some of our high risk areas. But that concept of really having a mobile site, because it’s one thing to have the National Guard go and swab the people, they still got to send it to a lab. We’re not only bringing the swabs, we’re bringing the lab to them so that we can get them very quick results. So we hope to have that by the beginning of the week and start debuting that very, very soon. But to do 3,500 a week of spot tests, particularly in longterm care facilities, that is going to be a huge, huge boon for our effort to prevent this thing from really getting in those facilities.
Ron DeSantis: (27:08)
Contact tracing, you’re starting to hear a lot about it. Very few people were talking about it at the beginning of this, but I can tell you the State of Florida Department of Health and our County health departments have been doing this the entire time. And in fact, I think one of the reasons why the outbreak hasn’t been as significant outside of southeast Florida is because they were doing the really tough work to contact trace, isolate the people that test positive, and then identify people who were in the contacts who may develop symptoms.
Ron DeSantis: (27:40)
They’ve been doing this religiously this whole time, and this is going to be a way that if you’re in a situation, we don’t know what’s going to happen the further down we go to this, but if you see an outbreak starting to develop, you identify the person that tests positive, trace their contacts, and it’s like putting a puzzle together. You do it and then you’re able to hopefully contain it at least somewhat, sometimes entirely you can do it through contact tracing. So we’ve added a bunch of epidemiologists through this, because we knew it was going to be important. We have some of the students from the various medical or public health schools, and we’re probably going to add even more if circumstances warrant that.
Ron DeSantis: (28:18)
So the contact tracing is going to continue in the state of Florida. It was always part of our strategy, very few people were talking about it because I just don’t think that they quite understood what was going on at the time. But this, this saved a lot of spread, particularly in communities that didn’t have the widespread transmission like you saw in Dade and Broward.
Ron DeSantis: (28:40)
Okay, so what is phase one? Phase one for us… Now, when we were going about this, I received input from physicians, healthcare executives, small business owners, elected officials, unemployed Floridians who were hurting, law enforcement. We had a task force that convened that got a lot of ideas together and submitted to me. There’s a report that I’ve now read that I’ve incorporated some of the recommendations, not all, but some into what we’re going to do today. We’re going to put that out publicly for y’all sometime I think today or tomorrow morning, and you’ll be able to see that report.
Ron DeSantis: (29:19)
So this was something where we really wanted to get it right. I would have liked to have announced what we were doing two weeks ago if I could, but I wanted the data, I wanted the facts. I’ve been able to consult with some of the top physicians in the state of Florida, some of these are some of the best hospitals in the world, about the outbreak, about where they see this going, and about the next steps that needed to be taken. And so that advice from physicians and the input was very, very important in what I decided to do.
Ron DeSantis: (29:48)
Okay, so here’s phase one. This really tracks what the president put out for phase one. The schools, since they are in distance learning are going to remain in distance learning. We are not, of course, going to allow visitors to these longterm care-
Ron DeSantis: (30:03)
We are not, of course, going to allow visitors to these longterm care facilities. I am willing to re-evaluate that if we have enough rapid tests where someone could come and test and if they test negative and they want to go see one of their parents, then maybe you let them in. But it’s going to require that capacity before we relax that. Maybe if somebody takes the antibodies test as well, then they would be able to go.
Ron DeSantis: (30:23)
Shutting down the visitation, we had to do it because we didn’t want to have an outbreak, but it’s tough. You have people there that don’t have human contact with their family and this has been going on now for almost two months. So if there’s ways that we can do it safely, I would certainly revisit it.
Ron DeSantis: (30:40)
I think the main changes that you’re going to see are the elective surgeries are able to resume and that’s going to take place statewide. People talk about elective surgeries as if it’s something like cosmetic surgery or something that doesn’t need to happen. Elective, in most cases, just means it’s elective exactly when you schedule it but it’s usually something you need to get done. So, I want that to be turned back on.
Ron DeSantis: (31:04)
The requirements of that is that the hospitals represent, they’re going to continue to maintain a surge capacity of if we see an uptick in COVID that they have adequate PPE and aren’t going to rely on the state for that and that they’re willing, able, to proactively work with the longterm care facilities and nursing homes in their communities to be able to prevent outbreaks. I think they’re all going to be willing to do that.
Ron DeSantis: (31:28)
The president’s guidelines talked about “large venues” and they mentioned restaurants, movie theaters, and churches. Now, I never closed churches. We relied on voluntary social distancing. I’ve declined to go for movie theaters now. I just think it’s practically difficult to do the social distancing. Indoor environments, I think, are more likely for transmission.
Ron DeSantis: (31:49)
So, even though you could have done that in phase one, I think prudence dictates that we go a little slow on that. The restaurants, what we’re going to do is allow outdoor seating with social distancing. So you need to have at least six feet apart from the tables and then indoors they can do 25% capacity with the CDC recommended spacing.
Ron DeSantis: (32:11)
I think that outdoor transmission, as far as we’ve seen, has been more difficult than the indoor climate-controlled transition. And so, I think being outside, if you’re six feet away, to me that would not be any more risky than going to Costco or some of the things that Floridians have been doing throughout this whole time. So I think it’s a way to give people, and may even reduce density in some of these grocery stores. I mean, some of these things are really, really packed. So maybe it’ll reduce some density there by giving people another option.
Ron DeSantis: (32:42)
Then, obviously, we want these folks to be able to get back in business if they can do it safely and I think I was convinced that this is safe. I had some medical folks recommend the outdoors to me and they thought that made more sense, so we’re doing that. Some people, the task force recommended 50% capacity inside. I think we’ll start with 25 with the outdoor and then see how it goes.
Ron DeSantis: (33:04)
Retail can go for indoor. Now we have had a lot of retail open. I mean, Home Depot, all this. I was in Broward the other day. They’re all lined up with their face mask, six feet apart outside. Some people come out the store, the new people go in. So, there’s a lot of process being done already on that. The rest of the retail, other retail was never closed down in any of the orders I did. People would do curbside delivery. They would do phone orders but the essential activity was not considered going into a store and congregating for retail unless the retail was deemed essential business.
Ron DeSantis: (33:38)
We’re now relaxing that we’re allowing the 25% indoor so they can continue doing the curbside everything they’ve been doing, now have a 25% indoor, have to follow the CDC recommendations for social distancing.
Ron DeSantis: (33:52)
We’re not going to change the bars and that was recommended not to change the bars. They said you could do the gyms in phase one. I’m going to look to see what some other states, how they’ve done it. What the results are. I do want people to be able to get into gyms and if I get some guidelines that make sense and I see other states have done it and it’s been okay, then we’ll obviously re-valuate that.
Ron DeSantis: (34:15)
I would say the same with some of the personal services, like the hairdressers. A lot of these folks are small business folks. They have been able to sell a lot of their products on curbside but this was something that was not considered essential business or activity to have the face-to-face close contact. I think there may be ways, we’ve gotten ideas about how you can do it to make it low risk. I’m going to look to see what happens in other states, but for now, phase one is not going to include that.
Ron DeSantis: (34:43)
Phase one in terms of our vulnerable populations and we’ve been messaging this, really, since early March. If you’re 65 and up, if you have a significant underlying condition, you need to avoid crowds, avoid close contact with people outside your household and stay home as much as you can.
Ron DeSantis: (35:01)
This is a disease. If you look at our fatality rates, we have at least 93% of the fatalities, I believe are 55 and over. Close to 85 or 65 and over. Between 80 and 85% of our fatalities in Florida are 65 and over. So, the risk is greater in these groups and we advise them to continue to urge caution in how they interact.
Ron DeSantis: (35:26)
There’s a lot of social distancing that’s going to be going on. Restaurant, retail store, obviously the essential businesses we’ve been having a been doing social distancing. I would tell people the most important social distance we can do is distancing the vulnerable population from those who are not. Because if you’re not vulnerable, you may be a carrier of this and not have symptoms or not know it and you have a risk to pass it along. So if we can do that, we’re going to see a lot of progress be made as we go forward.
Ron DeSantis: (35:58)
We’re going to continue with the CDC guidelines about physical distancing when in public. Social groups at 10 or fewer. We’re going to continue doing that and we’re recommending face masks if you’re in face-to-face interactions with people, particularly in the workplace and if you can’t adequately social distance.
Ron DeSantis: (36:21)
So this is not, we’re not going to fine people if they don’t do it and I think sometimes if you going by yourself for a jog, you probably don’t need the face mask. If you’re in a face-to-face business, that to me has got to be a business practice. Then if you’re in situations, just in the public where you may not be able to keep that distance, then this is a good thing to be [inaudible 00:06:41].
Ron DeSantis: (36:43)
Florida’s next steps. We are going to be data driven. We’re going to focus on the facts. The things that we’re going to look at to go to Phase two are going to be the things that brought us to do mitigation in the first place, primarily hospital capacity and hospital resources. If we start seeing cases where more and more people are going into the hospital and we think that it might be a surge that they can’t handle, that is going to be something that we are going to look at and that is going to be something that we’re obviously going to have to take into account.
Ron DeSantis: (37:16)
As long as there’s continued availability. As long as we’re not seeing a flood of people into the hospital, that obviously is going to be good progress. We’re also going to continue to look at the rate of positivity for our tests.
Ron DeSantis: (37:31)
What’s going to happen is you saw all the expanded capacity that we’re going to have. We think we’ll be able to do 30 to 40,000 tests a day. I don’t know if the demand’s there for that, but we think we’ll have the capacity to do that on day one when we get into next week.
Ron DeSantis: (37:49)
What will happen if you do 40,000 tests, you probably are going to find people who are asymptomatic and who are positive, who aren’t going to need to be hospitalized, certainly are not at risk for fatality, but you’re going to find those folks. So you may see the total number of cases go up. You may see out of 40,000, you may see 2,000. We’ve never had 2,000 new Florida cases. You may see that. People will probably write that cases are “spiking.” That’s not a good way to look at it. I mean these are cases that are there. We’re identifying it with aggressive testing. The rate would still be 5% if you were doing it, if you were looking at that.
Ron DeSantis: (38:27)
So we’re looking at the positivity rate more so than just the raw number of cases because the raw number of cases does have a relationship to how much you’re testing. I mean we had 530 new cases yesterday but we only had eight or 9,000 test results. Whereas, we’ve had other days where we had 800 new cases, we had like 15,000 test results and so looking at it that way is something that is going to be very, very important and so those are going to be the type of metrics we’re looking at.
Ron DeSantis: (38:56)
We’re also going to be looking at some of the syndromatic symptoms in terms of if you see certain things with hospitalizations, people going to the ER visit for things like cough or fever, that’s something that we’re going to be looking at for sure.
Ron DeSantis: (39:12)
So we’re going to be safe, smart and we’re going to do this step-by-step. We are trying to build a foundation for the future of the state of Florida. We did not ask to be put into this situation. This was thrust upon us largely because of the malfeasance of the Chinese communist party. We are where we are, but I think that we can get through it. I think we can build the foundation.
Ron DeSantis: (39:38)
I’m reminded of an old story, an anecdote from the Middle Ages where you had three stone masons. They were building, they were working stone in Germany. They were just hard at work yet an observer there that asked the first mason what he was doing. First mason said, “Sir, I am shaping stone.” He then asked the same question to the second mason and second mason said, “Sir, I’m making a wall.” Well, he finally got around to asking the third mason and the third mason was very excited and proud to proclaim, “I am creating a cathedral.”
Ron DeSantis: (40:15)
The cathedral that we are building today is a state that is healthy, safe, prosperous, and free. We can do it. God bless you all. Thank you very much.
Speaker 3: (40:30)
You listed a couple of benchmarks there, hospital admissions, test results. How long does the current trend need to stay in place without those things happening before you go to more restaurants, maybe bars, hairdressers? Even you look like you need a haircut.
Ron DeSantis: (40:47)
Oh, I need it worse than anything. I haven’t had a haircut since February and so you know, it’s really interesting how some of these talking heads on TV to particularly the ones that don’t want anyone to go back to work, how come they always look so, so clean? They always look so nice and kept. How does that possibly happen if they’re not allowed to get a haircut? Gee, I wonder what they’re doing.
Ron DeSantis: (41:07)
So there’s not going to be a firm time. I thought about doing it that way but we look at the data on an hourly basis, on a daily basis. My hope would be each phase we’re thinking about weeks. We’re not thinking about months. If we’re making progress, we need to continue to put people back to work in a safe, smart and step-by-step way but it’s going to be data driven.
Ron DeSantis: (41:31)
We also have, because we have 50 states, laboratories of democracy, we’re going to be able to look to see, there’s some states that have done it a little different than we have. There are some states, I think I deliberately erred on the side of taking measured steps, kind of even a baby step, to return to not normal where we were, but to start us on the road to a brighter day and I think that that’s the right approach. There’s some other folks that were way more aggressive. There’s some other states that probably aren’t going to do anything for another two months. I’m not sure that that’s going to work out well, but I think that’s what they’re going to do.
Ron DeSantis: (42:07)
So, so we’re going to be doing it every day, every hour, watching this, talking with folks. I really liked the trends, particularly outside of Southeast Florida. But if you look at Southeast Florida, you are saying downward movement and it’s not going to probably happen as quickly for them as it did for Orange or Hillsborough or some of these others, but I do think it’s going to happen. I think they’ve worked really hard. We’ve worked great together with them and we’re going to continue to do that.
Governor, correct me if I’m wrong but it sounded like you’re almost chocking up a little bit when you talk about how Mamie hasn’t been held by her grandparents. Have you had private moments through this where you have shed tears over what’s going on and our state of country?
Ron DeSantis: (42:53)
Brennan, it’s been very difficult for a lot of people including me. The stuff we look at, we look at who gets infected. That stinks to get infected with this thing. Now most people, the vast majority have recovered. Not even close, which is a good thing. Someone ends up in the hospital. That’s not good. I know some people that were in, had serious, serious hospital stays, fortunately pulled through and of course we have people who don’t make it, which is very, very sad.
Ron DeSantis: (43:20)
I think we were consumed with that for so much of this but I think probably since she was born and just in the last couple of weeks, it’s occurred to me, none of my family has seen her. She’s not been held by a single person in any of our families. My wife and kids, they have not left the house since February except to give birth. We’ve not just gone to do a park as a family. We’ve not just gone and had lunch somewhere as a family. So the little things that I think have changed has really had an impression on me.
Ron DeSantis: (43:53)
I think about kids not being able to play, compete in sports. I think about the things that families used to do and take for granted. Those are moments that you just can’t get back and that’s one of the reasons why I’m convinced that we can take this step. We’ll be smart. We’ll be safe. We’ll do it step-by-step. But we should have hope. We were very resourceful. We’re very innovative. We can get this done. It’s not going to happen overnight. If there was some magic thing, I could flip the switch and say everything’s fine. I would do it. Trust me. It just doesn’t work that way. But we need to get there and I’d like to be able to get in a situation where her grandparents can come see her.
Speaker 4: (44:35)
So, what does Phase two look like and how many phases are there?
Ron DeSantis: (44:42)
So there are three phases according to the White House’s guidance. I think we’re going to use that as our roadmap. Now I departed from that on the movie theaters. We’re not going to do movie theaters. They said you could do it. There elective surgeries is a little more aggressive than what they had. They only wanted outpatient but because we have so much hospital space, we believe that they can do inpatient and…
Ron DeSantis: (45:03)
-so much hospital space, we believe that they can do inpatient and still accommodate any patients that would come in for COVID-19. So we’ll do the same thing. I’d have to look at it, but I think it’s… You would do more, maybe you’d do some limited seating in bars, but not have people kind of freelance together. You would do some social distancing in some of the larger venues.
Ron DeSantis: (45:22)
I would like to get to a point… I’m not saying we’re going to get it in May. I’ve helped recruit. I wanted the wrestling to be filmed in Orlando. I’d like them to do WrestleMania. They were going to do WrestleMania in April. That was hundreds of millions of dollars. I want to keep that good relationship. I want them to invest in Florida. We got UFC to come to Jacksonville. Again, there’s not going to be any fans, but I think those are going to be a good event for people. I work with Phil Mickelson on making sure they have what they need for that Tiger Woods match. So there’s going to be a lot of good stuff going on, but I don’t think we’re probably ready to have fans.
Ron DeSantis: (45:52)
But I do think if the trends are good, I think as you get into June, July, I think there is a window to have some fans. You’re not going to have everyone packed in, but man, in 90 degree weather in the state of Florida, if you’re out there and someone’s 10 feet away from you and you want to watch a ball game or something, you may be able to do that. So this is something that we’re just going to have to do. We’re going to be driven by the facts, driven by the data, but I think that Major League Baseball coming back… I’m hearing this. I think that that’s going to be exciting for a lot of people, and I just think that there’s going to be a lot of possibilities, so let’s just be resourceful and creative.
Speaker 5: (46:27)
[crosstalk 00:46:27] supersede local governments?
Ron DeSantis: (46:31)
So we are accepting Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach. But that is not… We consulted with them on this. This is the direction they want to go. They just did a big announcement, I think yesterday was the day, where their parks and marinas and golf courses were open. They were the only ones that didn’t have a lot of that open. We had a lot of people… I mean, they’ve had golf, they’ve been doing boating and stuff, and I’m not seeing any outbreaks tied to playing golf. I think it was the right decision to give people outlets and give them the ability to do some of those things. So we left them out. The rest applies statewide. Because of the numbers in all these other places, I’d find it hard that a local government could go against the advice of the best doctors in the state of Florida.
Ron DeSantis: (47:14)
When I’m sitting there at Cleveland Clinic, when I’m sitting there at Orlando Health, when I’m there at Tampa General and all these renowned physicians are saying, “We’ve passed the peak, we’re ready for the next step,” to have some local official do it, you’re going against medical judgment. You’re going against what would be good for the economy. You’re going against freedom from your… So I don’t think that’s going to happen. So we just did it, and we’ll see how it works, but I’m pretty confident that it will be able to stick. Yes sir.
Speaker 6: (47:41)
If the positivity rate goes up in phase one and-
Ron DeSantis: (47:44)
If the what goes up?
Speaker 6: (47:45)
If the positivity rate goes up in phase one, if you have more cases, at what point do you begin to reassess the situation around the state? Do you say, we’re going to go back to a lockdown if the cases go up to maybe 15 or 20% again?
Ron DeSantis: (47:58)
well, look. So if they went up to 20%, that… We’ve never had 20%, even when we were just testing in the hospitals. So you were only, at the beginning, really only testing the people who were really sick and ended up in the hospital. We still didn’t have that. So I don’t think that that’s likely. But for me to reevaluate any of these steps, I would have to be convinced that those steps are causing the change in positivity. And sometimes there’s these connections that get thrown out. I mean, people were so upset, not in Florida, but throughout, about Jacksonville Mayor, who’s doing a great job, allowing people to walk on the beach two weeks ago. Okay? They said this was going to bring the world down. Have you looked how many cases Du val County has had in the last few days? They got a million people in that county. I don’t think they’ve had very many. I think it’s been very, very low for a county that big.
Ron DeSantis: (48:46)
So people will say, “Oh, this,” and there’s no connection to it. And so I would look to see, if there’s something that’s being done that is sparking some type of an outbreak, then of course you have to reevaluate it. But I wouldn’t say, “Oh, well, we should just restrict X because Y happened” if there was no connection between the two of those things.
Ron DeSantis: (49:05)
And so one of the things I think people, though, should know as we go forward… You study all these super-spreading events that have really spread like wildfire, there are a lot of things in common for these things. There was the big funeral in Albany, Georgia. You had a super-spreader. And a funeral is… You’re going to be in close contact with people. You’re going to be hugging, kissing, it’s emotional, you’re crying, all these different things, and there’s a lot of very close contact. Well, this spread like wildfire throughout the funeral, infected a bunch of people and you add a large number of fatalities just from that funeral in Albany, Georgia.
Ron DeSantis: (49:44)
You look at… When the New Rochelle super-spreader, he was somebody that was going to religious services, was very close, I think he went to a business conference… He was doing a bunch of things that were really close contact with other folks. And so as we go forward… The choir in Washington State. You had a choir in Washington State and they were just sitting there singing for an hour. But, you know, when you’re doing that… And you don’t have to sneeze or cough. You’re putting out drop… And a bunch of them got infected. So those are the types of interactions that we really need to be concerned about.
Ron DeSantis: (50:21)
And so eventually we’re going to do conventions and things again. How is that going to work? Because if you’re in a business convention, you’re around people, and you’re talking for hours, and you’re close, that definitely is higher-risk. So you’re going to have to think clearly about how you’re doing this.
Speaker 5: (50:37)
You put a couple of bullet points on the screen of businesses that can be open, businesses that have to be closed… I imagine a lot of business owners are watching this right now, saying, “Well, my business wasn’t on that list. Am I supposed to be open or closed? There’s a lot of gray area.” And since you’re not deferring…
Ron DeSantis: (50:53)
No, there’s no gray areas. If you read… We’re going to put the order out. So the order continues the essential business framework, so anyone who was under that framework is good to go, and then it allows responsible activity to include these new things, like the retail, some of the other ones. So if you were good before, you’re good there now.
Ron DeSantis: (51:14)
My original order did not actually close any businesses when we did that. What we did was we limited certain activity. So if you own a hair salon, I would not be able as a Floridian to go in and have close contact inside your salon, get the haircut, because we were trying to reduce those interactions. But you could sell all your product, have people do curbside, and a lot of people did that. And so that’s kind of where we’re at. So a lot of those businesses, retail never actually had to close. They could do curbside. This then allows some foot traffic, on a limited basis, which I think is a good thing. The personal services is something that we’re looking at. I just want to make sure that we’re doing it in a way that’s safe.
Speaker 7: (51:56)
[crosstalk 00:51:56] local government tag on restricting for their communities?
Ron DeSantis: (52:02)
So what we did was we accepted Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, and we’re going to work constructively with them to get them where they need to go. And then we put, these are the state rules. We didn’t specifically preempt local government, but like I told Troy… Or actually, did I… Was it Troy? Who asked me that? You asked me that, yeah. I think it’d be really hard outside of Southeast Florida. And I, they’re not included, but if they were, you may have been able to make an argument some of these places. You go to some of these places that have such low rates, where all these main physicians are saying we need to go to phase one… To say that these modest steps are somehow not acceptable, that’s going against medical judgment, and I don’t think that they’re going to want to do that.
Ron DeSantis: (52:44)
So I’m confident that this will be a good roadmap. I want to get Southeast Florida on the board, and I want to be able to get them in a situation… They’re close. And I’ll tell ya, the leadership, they’ve done great. Great leadership. The administrators in Broward, Palm Beach, the mayors… Mayor Jimenez, we work very closely together. He’s had a lot on his plate. He’s effectively a governor in many ways, because they got almost three million people there. That’s bigger than a lot of states in the plains. And so we’re doing that. I think we’re going to be able to get them there relatively soon, but that’s going to be a collaborative process and I think we’re better… When we do bottom-up, when we work together, I think that’s probably the best way.
Ron DeSantis: (53:22)
But Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach are very important to Florida’s future. They were all doing so well before this happened. You’d drive in Miami, you couldn’t move 10 feet without seeing a crane somewhere. It was unbelievable. You look at all the business that was going into Broward, we had the Spirit Airlines, all these other great things. Of course, Palm Beach has a lot to offer, as we’re seeing huge amounts of wealth going down there. So we want to get them going, I think we have a good path to do it, but it’s going to be on a little bit different timetable than the rest of the state.
Ron DeSantis: (53:54)
I’m going go home and see my family, but God bless you guys. Thank you.
Speaker 8: (53:57)
Thank you, everyone! Thank you.