May 1, 2020
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Briefing May 1
Ron DeSantis: (00:01)
Good afternoon. It’s always great to be back in Northeast Florida. I’m here for another announcement, as we move into phase one of Florida’s recovery. I’m really excited to be here with our Adjutant General, Jim Eifert. The National Guard for Florida has done an absolutely fantastic job. If you look at all the innovations and testing that we’ve done, whether it’s the drive through sites, whether it’s these new walkup sites in underprivileged areas, whether it’s the strike teams that they’re doing to test residents and staff at longterm care facilities, they have done an extraordinary job. They’ve been a force multiplier for the state of Florida. I think by this weekend, National Guard supported outlets, all those types of tests, will have generated about a 100000 tests in the state of Florida. That’s a really remarkable thing and I really want to thank Jim.
Ron DeSantis: (00:55)
I also want to thank Mayor Curry for doing a great job during this time. Being very level headed, being very fact base and data driven. This Northeast Florida region has really, really done well. I’ll tell you a few things about that, but I think it’s exciting what’s in store for Northeast Florida, because I think they’re going to be able to bounce back very quickly.
Ron DeSantis: (01:16)
Today, I’m announcing, as part of phase one, that beginning Monday, May 4th, Florida’s world-renowned state park system will be opening. Opening the parks back up is consistent with my safe, smart, step-by-step plan to reopen Florida. Since the beginning of the COVID 19 emergency, we’ve made decisions based on data, facts and science. And I think we’ve seen enough about COVID-19 to make, and I think the science backs it up, that outdoor transmission is less likely than transmission in enclosed environments.
Ron DeSantis: (01:55)
In fact, the Department of Homeland Security’s Bio-defense lab recently conducted a very thorough study about the effect of sunlight, heat and humidity on the virus, both in terms of surface transmission and in terms of respiratory droplets and aerosols. They made the following conclusions, and DHS was very, very confident in this. The DHS study said, that sunlight rapidly killed the virus in aerosols. It said that outdoor daytime environments are lower risk for transmission of the virus than indoor environments. In terms of surfaces, when a virus may be left on a surface, DHS study concluded that sunlight kills the virus quickly, and that the virus is less stable overall at higher temperatures and higher humidity.
Ron DeSantis: (02:49)
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t transmit it. Obviously, if you pack in 1000 people, and they’re right next to each other, and they cough on each other, that’s going to be risky. But, when you’re talking about open spaces with appropriate social distancing, that is a very low risk environment, but it’s also high reward for the people of Florida, because people can go out, they can get sunlight…
Ron DeSantis: (03:52)
… After Mayor Curry recognized the science and opened up Jacksonville’s beaches for recreational activity. At that time, there was a lot of people, not from Florida, but from between DC and New York, who thought that this was just the most significant thing that had ever happened, that the sky was going to fall. They did misleading pictures, acting like this was like Lollapalooza on the beach or something like that. This was what they were focused on. Not dirty subway cars, not other things that have been major transmitters of this disease. They were really focused on this. And they said that… And people here were mocked.
Ron DeSantis: (04:36)
I want to thank the local media here in Northeast Florida for fighting back against false narratives, and actually putting the facts out, actually showing that people were behaving responsibly, and that the mayor and then his compatriots on the beaches, those mayors were doing a good job. And so, what we’ve seen since… Is…
Ron DeSantis: (04:59)
… Is There been some type of major [inaudible 00:05:04]? No. In fact, cases have declined. They weren’t that high to begin with, but two weeks ago the County reported 29 new cases. Now, I have a County of 1000000 people… Extremely low, that’s like lunchtime in Queens on any given day, in terms of what they’re seeing in other parts of the country. So that wasn’t a lot.
Ron DeSantis: (05:23)
I think it’s important, look at the last 10 days. People were said this was such a big deal, that the sky was going to fall, because people were walking their dog on the beach. Okay, let’s go back. April 21st, total new confirmed cases, 11, in Duval County. April 22nd, 19. 23rd, 18. 24th, 17. 25, 24. Now, those dates probably would not have shown anything from the beaches, because if you were to get it then you’d develop symptoms. But then, let’s look at this. The 26th, out of 1000000 people in Duval County, four new cases on April 26th. 27th, 10 new cases. 28th, six new cases. 29, eight new cases. Yesterday was 17, but that was a big test done, so the percent positive yesterday, 1.8% of the tests came back positive. There’s parts of the country where they’re at 30-40% of everyone tested comes back positive.
Ron DeSantis: (06:27)
Also, look at the hospital space in Duval County. The whole reason we went on mitigation was because people were concerned that the hospitals could get overwhelmed. It would lead to excess of deaths, it would lead to people not getting the care that they needed, not just for COVID but for other things. While, as we sit here today, 42% of the hospital beds in Duval County sit empty. There is no overflowing of hospitals. There has not been an overwhelming of hospitals here in Duval County, or really anywhere else for that matter. In fact, we had Memorial Healthcare down in Broward County, which has had a lot more cases than here, they’ve actually collapsed one of their ICU wings because there just wasn’t enough patients going into the ICU. That’s a good thing.
Ron DeSantis: (07:17)
Also, look at the overall percentage of tests that come back positive in Duval, and I think you’re now under 4%. I think you’re actually under four. That includes at the beginning, when really only the sickest people were getting tested. That percent positive, it’s so low. Really, it’s hard to get a downward trend from there because it’s so low. That’s a good thing. That’s good news. We have the test center here at the Jacksonville Jaguars’ stadium. They’re doing on average 271 tests a day, but they could do many more than that. The supply exceeds the demand for this drive through test center, which I think is, again, I think that’s another good thing, and I think it’s a good sign.
Ron DeSantis: (08:03)
So, Duval County and then Nassau County, they’ve done fantastic on this. I mean, knock on wood of what they’ve done. St. John’s has done tremendous. And so, I really just want to thank the people of Northeast Florida. I want to thank the people like Mayor Curry who have really led. They’ve proved a lot of people wrong throughout this. And I just think it’s important to kind of take the tail of the tape. You do things two weeks ago and you try to smear a community, and then you just go by. It’s like drive by media, just do it and then move on. Well, we’re here today. They’ve done it the right way. They have a foundation to build going forward. And I think that that’s really, really good.
Ron DeSantis: (08:45)
And I think it’s also important for people to understand, when we’re talking about the outdoor environments, when we’re talking about the risk being lower, that’s something that you can use in your everyday life. When we go in with the restaurants, we’re recommending that they do outdoor seating, obviously with a sufficient distance between table. But we really believe that that is lower risk.
Ron DeSantis: (09:07)
You look at some of the super spreading events that we’ve seen, major events throughout the country. You had the funeral in Albany, Georgia. You had people packed into, I think it was a church. And you had people crying, hugging, kissing, very close contact, sustained contact in an enclosed environment. This thing spread like wildfire. You started to have people go into the hospital. If you look at the choir in Washington State, they’re inside. They’re sitting. They’re singing. A lot of different droplets and aerosols in that environment. Many of the people got sick. It spread very quickly. The Biogen conference in Boston at the end of February, again, these are people that are in close contact for a sustained period of time inside. And you had a super spreading event.
Ron DeSantis: (09:55)
You’ve also seen things like parties, or celebrations, bar mitzvahs, other things like that that have caused super spreading events. And so, those are more high risk. But being outdoors in open air is more low risk. And today, we take a step that I think is good for the people of Florida. I think it’s going to be good for their peace of mind because people have been cooped up a lot, even though the whole time I wanted people to be getting recreation. It’s still there were only so many options. So, now we have more options and I think that they can do it in a way that’s safe.
Ron DeSantis: (10:32)
I think it’s also important to point out the hospital capacity. We’re not just talking Duval that’s got a lot of capacity. When you go down to Miami-Dade, they have almost 40% of the cases in the state of Florida, and yet, they have 40% of their beds are available in Miami-Dade, a very big and populous county. So, we’re in a situation where we’ve had really flat hospitalizations far below what the system would even hold. In fact, last night, the state of Florida reported statewide 591 people in the ICU statewide. That’s the lowest number that we’ve had in the ICU since the very beginning of April. And, if you compare that to other states, I mean there are states that are half or a third of our size that have significantly more people in the ICU than the state of Florida does.
Ron DeSantis: (11:23)
And so, the parks are an important part, I think, of quality of life. It’s going to be an important part of phase one. We’ll have more details about how that’s going to roll out. I mean, it is going to roll out on May 4th. There are going to be some restrictions because we do want to continue social distancing. It’s a smart thing to do. If you’re out there with your family and you’re not getting involved in big groups, very low risk. But we want to make sure that we continue to do these things responsibly using what Mayor Curry did here in Jacksonville as a great model. I’m going to let the mayor come up, say a few things, then I’m happy to take some questions.
Lenny Curry: (11:56)
Thanks, Governor. Well, welcome to this beautiful state park, this gem to Northeast Florida and Jacksonville. This park and this day really represents, in my mind, what Florida is all about. Governor, I want to thank you before I talk a little bit about outdoor recreation. What people don’t see that happens behind the scenes in a crisis is the communication and collaboration. Jacksonville got ahead of this because we had help. We got testing up early because the governor’s office was responsive. We got personal PPE equipment to our healthcare workers distributed as needed because we had help anytime. Governor was calling me in the evening, members of his senior staff are accessible every time I call them, while they have the entire state asking for things. So, a big thank you for the way we’re getting through this and coming out of this.
Lenny Curry: (12:46)
Just quick, on the back of what the governor said, about the idea behind opening the beaches. Look, we were looking at data. We’re reading places where coronavirus, COVID-19 I hit places hard. And it all spoke to types of events the governor talked about, compact spaces for long periods of time. We’re observing people in grocery stores for weeks because they have to get essentials. And, while that’s happening, you don’t have large outbreaks. So, with the data and with basic logic, it made sense to open wide spaces to let people move and remind them to social distance. So, proud of the people of Jacksonville for the way we have worked to this and continue to work this. And I’m grateful to our governor.
Ron DeSantis: (13:28)
Thank you. All righty.
Speaker 3: (13:36)
Okay. Governor, question. Senator Scott, Senator Rubio both have suggested that certain people on unemployment do not want to work because they’re making more on unemployment than otherwise. Have you experienced this? Have you heard about this being true among Floridians or something Rubio and Scott are just conjuring?
Ron DeSantis: (13:49)
I’m not familiar with their comments. I can tell you Floridians want to work. We had an economy that had 2.8% unemployment. People were doing a great job. And this external event upended that for hundreds of thousands of people in our state. And it’s been very difficult. We’ve worked extremely hard on fixing a very broken system that you had with unemployment and starting to get good results that I’m happy. We need to do more, but we’re much better than we were a month ago.
Ron DeSantis: (14:22)
But I think people want to work. I think people enjoy being out doing things that are productive. Part of it is, that’s just kind of how they are, but I think they will contribute to a sense of normalcy. And I can’t guarantee everything is going to be exactly like it was. But I think, to be able to go out and be doing things, I think would be a very good thing. So, we’ve got a lot of hard working people here. They absolutely want to work. They did not want to have their jobs taken from them. And we’ll get them back. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we’re going to get people back.
Governor, Lorena with Action News Jax.
Ron DeSantis: (14:55)
You were talking about the low percentages of infections, but would you agree that we were able to get to that point because of the measures that your office took with social distancing, shutting down certain facilities? And also, Governor, how do we know what the true rate of infection is if there’s not enough widespread testing, especially in rural counties?
Ron DeSantis: (15:16)
So, here’s the thing with the testing, we have seven sites for drive through. We’ve now got, oh man, I mean, I think we may be up two ten walk in sites where we’re going and underserved communities. We started this by doing the public housing project with the University of Florida in Jacksonville. People were very happy because a lot of them didn’t have cars to go through the drive through site. So, we’re doing that. We’re getting good response. We’re affirmatively going into nursing homes, even if they don’t have any positive cases, to try to see if we could identify asymptomatic.
Ron DeSantis: (15:47)
With that said, we have capacity to do more and more testing. I mean, we have it right now. We’ve built more. I got contracts with these new labs that can do 18,000 tests a day. So, that’s there. But I think, in Jacksonville, you look at it. We don’t fill up the site here. There’s never-
Ron DeSantis: (16:03)
… demand outstripping supply. You think, “Okay, well, maybe people just aren’t willing to go get tested.” The problem with that is when you have a positivity rate that’s so low, the easiest inference is that this thing just hasn’t transferred in this area the way it’s done in places like New York or New Jersey. But what really will help us determine this, and we’re supposed to finally get them in today, are the antibody tests. We’re going to do serum prevalence analysis in different parts of the state. What the antibody tests tell you is, do you have antibodies for the virus? If you do, then that means that you had the virus.
Ron DeSantis: (16:42)
You’re looking at different parts of the country that have done this. They did it in Santa Clara, California. Stanford looked at it. They believe that between 50 and 80 times more people in that county have the antibodies than have actually tested positive. LA County did something similar. They didn’t think it was quite that high, but it was certainly exponentially greater than who had tested positive. University of Miami did it in Miami Dade. At the time, I think there was 10,000 cases, they think that there’s 160,000 people that have the antibodies.
Ron DeSantis: (17:16)
We’re going to do that here and other parts of Florida. We’re going to get hundreds of thousands of these tests in, but that will give us an indication of how widespread this thing was. I think we all understand at this point, this thing was here earlier than we thought.
Ron DeSantis: (17:31)
The Super Bowl in Miami, I was talking to the head of the committee, I was like, “There’s no way we didn’t have this in the Super Bowl.” People say, “My whole staff was sick that week,” or whatnot.
Ron DeSantis: (17:42)
I think it was here. I think there’s way more people that have the antibodies than we thought initially, but this will allow us to determine that. Then, what kind of inferences do you draw from that? If the antibodies are prevalent at 10, 20, 50 times the positive tests, then that’s telling you that the virus fatality rate is much lower, which is a good thing. It tells you that the hospitalization rate will be much lower, which is a good thing. You probably have the majority of people that have acquired this thing had symptoms either so mild that they never even thought about getting medical attention or perhaps no symptoms at all. We’re getting more and more data on this, now that Florida is doing this, we’re going to do it.
Ron DeSantis: (18:26)
You, also, having antibodies is just good to know. I mean, if we’re at a nursing home and half the staff have antibodies, well, that’s lower risk then for the residents because those are people that are going to have some form of immunity from the virus. I think the antibodies testing is going to be very important in terms of how we go forward and just really understanding the risks. But I do think it’s pretty clear, and I’ve been very critical of a lot of the doom and gloom projections of saying this or that, but if you’re under 50 with no significant health issues, the data is overwhelming that you are incredibly low risk. Fortunately, young kids are at the lowest risk of any other portion of our society. I mean, I have a three-year old, a two-year old and a newborn, and I am much more concerned with other things than I am with this in terms of my kids’ health. That’s a good thing.
Ron DeSantis: (19:16)
There’s also research being done now in Europe about putting kids in school. Now we’re doing distance learning in Florida to the end of the year, we made that decision. But the American view has been, “Yeah, kids are at lower risk. But if they go to school and they interact, then they’ll transmit it to their teachers and their parents,” and so you wanted to not have those things. But that also has implications for summer school and summer camps, little league, all these other things.
Ron DeSantis: (19:41)
Europeans are looking at it and a lot of them think that kids aren’t really significant vectors, that the parents are more likely to infect them. I don’t know if that’s right, but we’re going to find out pretty soon because they’re in school in Denmark. Switzerland is putting their kids back in school. I would love to be able to have the hard data to say that kids are not significant transmitters of this because if that’s true then, man, we’ve got to do summer camps. We’ve got to get back and get our kids back out doing things. This is all about just following the data and following it where it leads.
Ron DeSantis: (20:13)
Speaker 4: (20:16)
On the parks, I have a two-part question. On Phase One for business there’s an exception for the three southeast counties. It’s the same thing for parks. You can have different parts of the state can have different-
Ron DeSantis: (20:28)
We’re going to have 80. Yeah. We’ll have 80 to start on Monday. It’s kind of a phased approach. I do think some of the southeast Florida counties, we’ll have open. Remember, those three counties all open parks, marinas and golf courses last week. They have this open and that’s something that I think made sense for them. I supported their decision 100%, and so we would want to have access as well to some of these. Department of Environmental Protection is going to be rolling out exactly the parameters. Like I told people, it’s not just going to be like it was in February. I mean there is going to be restrictions, there’ll be limitations just so people are safe. But I really believe if people are out there and they’re not in big groups, I think it’s a low-risk environment.
Speaker 5: (21:12)
Governor, we talked to a lot of people who are still pending for unemployment benefit. They’ve been waiting since March. Is that acceptable? Why has it taken so long to try and address some of the problems of the unemployment benefit?
Ron DeSantis: (21:21)
We have, last night, paid out another 69,000 payments. As of two days ago, there’ve been 416,000 unique claimants paid. [inaudible 00:21:32]
Ron DeSantis: (22:08)
… ” Yeah, I applied in mid-March.” We have DEO, they’re actually reaching out to people and saying, “Okay, what did you do?” In a number of cases, people didn’t have all the information submitted, social security number out of state wages. Some of the people weren’t working before this. Obviously unemployment compensation is for people that lose their jobs. There’s other forms of relief for this situation if you didn’t lose your job, but some of what you see here in terms of these unique claims submitted, some of those folks have not qualified under this. I think that you’ve seen a huge increase.
Ron DeSantis: (22:43)
I mean you go back four weeks, the system was in tatters. People couldn’t even get on. I mean there’s all going to be a whole investigation that’s going to need to be done about how the state of Florida could have paid 77 million for this thing, however many years ago they did. There’s a whole bunch of problems. We had guys go in who are super-smart. They worked 24/7. They’ve rebuilt a lot of this. They’re doing stuff every day. But you now have people that can access it better. Last weekend, they took the system down. People could still apply if Connect is down because you can go to Pega, and then the Pega data gets migrated to Connect. But they took down the Connect for the interface with the public so they could devote 100% of its capacity to doing payments. They did like 500,000 unique payments. Not unique claims but unique payments last weekend. We’re going to continue to build off the momentum.
Ron DeSantis: (23:34)
It’s been the number one non-health priority that we’ve had, and we’ve mobilized so many people in state government to be able to do it. You have some people that are applying through Connect, through Pega and through a paper application. Those, obviously, you got to filter that out. You’re only going to do one, but we’ve gotten hundreds of thousands, I think, paper applications too. I’ve got 2,000 employees from various state agencies that I’ve surged into the unemployment and they’re actually taking the paper applications and they’re putting it into Pega-
Ron DeSantis: (24:03)
… or putting it into Connect. So it’s really been a team effort. Jon Satter, I had to put in charge because the job wasn’t getting done. He’s our DMS Secretary. He’s done a great job. And it’s not over. Obviously, there’s more improvements that need to be made. But if people really understood how in tatters this thing was, they’ve been working really hard.
Speaker 6: (24:29)
Governor, on that thread-
Speaker 7: (24:29)
[crosstalk 00:24:29] oncology.
Speaker 6: (24:29)
On that thread, governor, 40% of Floridians who’ve applied for unemployment appear to not be ineligible. That’s according to the DEO. Is it possible that they were mislabeled?
Ron DeSantis: (24:38)
So say it again.
Speaker 6: (24:38)
40% of Floridians who’ve applied for unemployment were found to be ineligible.
Ron DeSantis: (24:42)
Speaker 6: (24:43)
Is it possible that they were mislabeled?
Ron DeSantis: (24:45)
So what I would tell you is under normal circumstances, like non-crisis situations, so if you go back last year, 2019, what DEO will tell you is a majority of people that apply are not eligible. Now, I think a majority applying now are eligible because these are people that just lost their jobs. So I think the percentage of ineligible is probably lower now than it is normally during the year. But that is how they’ve done it, that it is the average person that applies historically is not eligible. And that’s just kind of based on what the rules and requirements are.
Ron DeSantis: (25:20)
And also understand, under normal circumstances, someone lost their job, say the third week of March, they’d have to go look for new jobs, they’d have to submit applications before they could even apply for an unemployment. I waived all that. I’ve waived everything I could waive to try to streamline the payments. And so a lot of this was architectural about engineering the system to actually be able to handle this volume of claims and get the money out. But some of it too, was we had to clear bureaucratic hurdles and it’s a very complicated web of rules and regulations and that all goes into a computer program. Yes ma’am?
Speaker 7: (25:56)
[crosstalk 00:25:56] oncology.
Speaker 8: (25:57)
[crosstalk 00:25:57] to not let down their guard down and see things like we saw with the funeral in Georgia where [inaudible 00:26:04].
Ron DeSantis: (26:06)
Yeah. So, but exactly, we still need to keep up the common sense, social distancing. And I think if you looked at all the other countries, all the other states, the most effective things have been targeted interventions to protect the at risk populations like we’ve done in Florida with so much to the nursing, we’ve sent out the state of Florida, we’ve sent out seven million face masks just to longterm care facilities. We’ve sent out half a million face shields just to longterm care facilities, sent out a million gloves because we knew that’s where the problem was. When I was in the white house the other day, Dr. Birx remarked, “Governor DeSantis knew where the risk was and he surged resources to be able to prevent death in those facilities.” And it’s not easy. And we’ve obviously had people get sick, we’ve had unfortunate deaths, but you look, compare us to like a New York on that, I mean they’re like 10 times what we were because we really focused.
Ron DeSantis: (27:01)
So we’re going to continue focusing on that. But then also doing the common sense things like don’t have large groups, particularly in an indoor environment. That is going to be more risky. And people understand that. And I think that if you treat people with respect, and if you level with them, they respond. What you’re seeing in some of these other states I think is vindictive, and I think that’s why people are rebelling. In Florida, I think people have understood, we’ve got a job to do, but if it’s not risky to go to a park, you should be able to go to a park. If it’s not risky for you to walk 18 holes, then do it. And so that’s the philosophy we’ve had. But yeah, I would just, these … Any type of large groups, I mean, first of all, our order bans any group over 10 but even if you have 10 people inside, you’re much better off being at a park with 10 people than being at a dinner party with 10 people for three hours all sitting next to each other in an enclosed environment. I mean, I think the science is pretty clear on that. And, and so people just need to understand that that makes sense. And we’re going to continue to protect our seniors and the vulnerable through appropriate social distancing. I’ll tell you, when this all started, we knew that the seniors were more at risk. And it’s amazing how great Florida seniors responded. Obviously we had to do stuff for these longterm care facilities. But you look at some of these communities, they didn’t need to be ordered. They were, they did this immediately like the villages, some of these other places. They immediately stopped the high risk activities. They kept activities that were low risk, and the results have been really, really good. So I think the seniors in Florida had responded beautifully, and it’s been good to see. So we’re going to continue doing those things. But I think those common sense things have been proven to be the most effective. Saying that someone can’t plant a seed in their front yard, that has nothing to do with public health, and that’s really just about social control. All right, I’m going to take off. Thanks guys.
Speaker 9: (29:02)
Ron DeSantis: (29:03)
Speaker 9: (29:03)
I appreciate it.
Ron DeSantis: (29:04)