May 3, 2020
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Briefing May 3
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a coronavirus press conference on May 3. DeSantis addressed issues with the unemployment system, and gave other updates on COVID-19.
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Ron DeSantis: (00:10)
… from some of the physicians about, one of the things with phase one is going to be quote unquote “elective procedures” returning to the hospitals. CDC had recommended about two months ago or certainly six, seven weeks ago that governors freeze ” elective procedures.” Part of the reason they wanted to do that was to make sure there was enough hospital space, which just from the data I thought that we would have that, but then they were also concerned about a lack of PPE, and at that time there was a real concern about that. So we ended up doing it. But as we’ve gone through this, as hospitals have had more than enough capacity, there’s obviously a need to to bring that online. So that’s going to start tomorrow. Some of the docs are going to talk about what all that means. These are really important things for people’s health, and we want to make sure that people understand that this is something that they’re going to be able to schedule going forward.
Ron DeSantis: (01:10)
In terms of what happened here in Volusia County, I think if you look, if you go back the last a week to 10 days, you’ve had two times where there have been a significant, anything out of the ordinary with cases reported and those were both connected to the prison here. You both have inmates and staff. That obviously is an issue. It’s a separate issue from kind of how it’s going in the community I think. But if you’ll look at April 24th, there were 10 new cases, then four cases, three, seven, three, four. You did have the 46 with the prison on the 30th and then seven and seven, and the percent positive has pretty much been, in the last week to 10 days, in that 1.5 to 2% accepting the prison dump, when they had the prison stuff. If you look at the syndromatic indicators for Volusia, everything’s trended downward in terms of the admissions to the hospital.
Ron DeSantis: (02:09)
So I think that the community here has handled it well. I know Jeff can talk a little bit about how they did it, how they’ve done. I know we’re going to hear about how they treated, they really did a good thing here, and I’ll let them talk about kind of creating a separate containment unit. We have a, one of the biggest problems we’ve seen in the last six weeks is people that have heart problems or stroke symptoms deciding they don’t want to go to the hospital. Sometimes that is because that they’re worried about being exposed to COVID. I think you’ll hear what Halifax did. There’s really no chance of that because of how they’ve segregated the units, but it’s certainly important for people if you do have those. The hospital’s a safe place to be and taking care of yourself is very, very important.
Ron DeSantis: (02:53)
I’m finally pleased to be able to say testing has been a big part of what we’re doing, but diagnostic testing is not the whole thing. You can go and test negative today. That mean you can’t acquire the virus two days from now or three days from now. And so it is a part of it, but it’s not the entire part. What you also need to have is serological testing, antibody testing. That is testing that will determine whether somebody has the antibodies that would be associated with having had the disease. What they’re finding throughout the country in places like Santa Clara, California, University of Miami did a study in Miami-Dade, New York is doing this, is that the number of people with the antibodies far exceeds the number of people who’ve actually tested positive at a diagnostic test. And so that has implications for how you deal with the epidemic going forward.
Ron DeSantis: (03:48)
So I thought this is really, really important for Florida. We have a bunch of these things coming in from the all kinds of sources, but we finally got our first 200,000 in at 3:00 in the morning. I’ve been bugging Department of Emergency Management, Department of Health for a long time for that. So they have 200,000 and those are going to be deployed in the coming days. It’ll probably be a combination of providing some to hospitals so that the healthcare workers can get tested, doing a lane in our drive-through test sites so that if people do want to get the antibodies, they can come in and get the antibody testing. But then there is going to need to be, and we may partner with universities on this, there needs to be some scientifically representative sample testing. So you go in different parts of the state, create a scientifically representative sample, test for the antibodies, and then see how prevalent those are in various parts of the state.
Ron DeSantis: (04:46)
The Miami study suggested that at the time, I think Dade County had 10,000 confirmed positive tests. They think it was antibodies about 160,000. So that’s obviously several, several times more. So we want to know what, how that is in other parts of the state of Florida. And I don’t know that the antibodies, I think you’ll definitely see some divergence there just as we’ve seen divergence with the epidemic overall. But I do think the antibody test is important. Then if you’re somebody and healthcare that has the antibodies, you’re going to want to know that. That’s going to be very helpful. Certain workers in other sectors that have the antibodies going to be very, very helpful. Pretty much everyone agrees it confers some level of immunity. People don’t know how long. Some have said maybe as low as six months, maybe two years. I think scientists will figure that out. But clearly it’s a benefit to have the antibodies.
Ron DeSantis: (05:40)
We’re going to continue doing our drive-through sites as we get into phase one, these test sites we have. Now we’re supporting or running in conjunction with the National Guard 11 drive-through sites and we have plans to open more. The thought is, is if people, someone goes to work and they have a symptom, that they know there’s an easy place they can go. This is not going to even be close to all the testing because you have medical providers are doing more and more. Private sector is doing a lot of stuff. But we do think it’s important.
Ron DeSantis: (06:12)
So I was just in the panhandle. They haven’t had a huge epidemic there, but we’re putting one there in Escambia County to be able to serve those folks. One of the things that we’re seeing that’s been effective are our walkthrough sites where we actually go into underserved communities, set up sites where people can walk up and get tested. We’re probably going to want to fold some antibody testing into the walkup sites, but we see those in different regions of the state of Florida. This is something that we’ve started within the last few weeks, and they’ve already done, they’ve completed 12,000 tests for those walkup sites, which is very, very important.
Ron DeSantis: (06:49)
Jeff and I talked, and some of the docs, talked about how important it is to safeguard nursing homes and as part of this rollout of the “elective surgeries,” the hospitals, when they’re doing it, they’re certifying effectively that they do have space in the hospital, that if you did have increase in COVID patients they could handle it, that they have adequate PPE. They’re not going to run to the state for more PPE. But then we’re also asking that everyone play a constructive role at helping our nursing home residents. What they did at Halifax is exactly the best practice that Secretary Mayhew has been talking about from the beginning.
Ron DeSantis: (07:27)
From the very beginning, she was worried about hospitals sending in COVID patients back into a nursing home and then infecting all the other places there. What Jeff is doing is that if somebody comes in with COVID in a nursing home, they need two positive tests before they’re sent back, so that we have confidence that they’re not going to infect other people. If they come in for a non-COVID reason, they’re still given a test before they get sent back to the nursing home. I’ll let them talk a little bit more, but that is basically what we want to see for all the healthcare providers. I think you are seeing that, by and large. I know Cleveland Clinic is doing something similar. But that is a way to help fight the epidemic and that’s a huge, huge thing.
Ron DeSantis: (08:09)
But we have National Guard. I have 50 National Guard units going into nursing homes and offering testing residents and staff. And what’s happened is we found more positive cases doing that, but a lot of these cases are asymptomatic. And so then you’re able to contain the cluster as it develops, and that that keeps it, because if these things are left to spread unabated in a nursing home, this thing can really spread like wildfire. So we appreciate the Guard doing that.
Ron DeSantis: (08:37)
We’re going to roll out this week a mobile lab inside of an RV. The lab is going to be able to do the 45-minute test. So we’re going to have 3,500 tests a week. We’re going to go to different longterm care facilities to start, offer these tests and then be able to get results back very, very quickly. So that’s a huge, huge thing. And I want to thank the White House, helped us getting these 45-minute tests for this mobile RV lab. And so I think that that’s going to be something that’s good. So we’ll have an announcement on that when it’s ready to roll. But I’m really excited about it.
Ron DeSantis: (09:15)
The state-supported testing, hospital testing is great, but there’s more private sector actors that are getting involved in this. I recently signed an executive order to allow licensed pharmacists to conduct COVID tests. So Walgreens has announced that they’re going to do nine drive-through sites in Florida. So they’re going to have one in Hillsborough County, one in Volusia County in Orange City, one in Opa-locka in Miami-Dade, one in Miami proper in Miami-Dade, Winter Garden in the Orlando Orange County area, Orlando proper, and then Jupiter and Palm Beach County. They probably will ended up doing some more, but that’s good. So there’ll be one here in the Western part of Volusia County. CVS is going to announce plans soon. So Walgreens, CVS, that’s very, very convenient for a lot of people. And then by early next week, Walmart plans to have five drive-through sites throughout the state. And so I know there’ll be an announcement on that forthcoming.
Ron DeSantis: (10:14)
So we are continuing to stress the need for testing and building a really strong infrastructure. Nobody really knows what the shape the epidemic’s going to take. As we go into phase one, we just have to wait and see and look at the data. There’s some people that think that we’ve kind of gotten through this as a country. That it may subside and then really come back in the fall. Well if that happens, we’re going to have a much better infrastructure put in place than the country had in February and early March. And so there’s new products coming online all the time. New technologies coming on all the time.
Ron DeSantis: (10:54)
I mean, just going back two or three weeks from today, there’s so much more available than there even was. And then as you were getting through March and into April, seems like there was a new emergency use authorization almost every other day from the FDA. So the private sector has really got involved in this and is really pushing out a lot of great products. So we’re going to just continue to do what we need to do to be able to build that good infrastructure.
Ron DeSantis: (11:19)
But I’m happy to be here to talk about this really important component about getting into phase one as a state. And I know that this is going to help the health of a lot of people in the state of Florida, and it’s also going to help the hospitals function. But a lot of people don’t recognize is we took a lot of these actions to be able to prevent the hospitals from being overwhelmed. That obviously has succeeded. We have not seen that in Florida. But because all these other things were not happening, a lot of hospitals had to furlough workers. And so some of the capacity was actually diminished on the backend. So this will allow kind of the system to start running again, like it should. And obviously it’d be good for people’s health. So I’m going to kick it over to Jeff. Let him say …
Ron DeSantis: (12:03)
So it’d be good for people’s health. So I’m going to kick it over to Jeff. Let him say a few things about these surgeries. If you can touch on how you guys have handled the nursing home patients, I think that’d be good, too.
Jeff Feasel: (12:10)
Yeah, absolutely. First of all, Governor, thank you for your leadership through the last 45 days and beyond. You’ve done an excellent job. And one of those areas is the nursing homes and some of the mandates that were put down, keeping the nursing homes closed to visitation because once this virus gets into the nursing homes, it does spread like wildfire. And it’s tough for families to not be able to see their loved ones, but I can tell you that it has worked here in Volusia County, and as a result of that, overall we’re seeing a very light number of cases here.
Jeff Feasel: (12:44)
At any given day, we have six to seven patients in our bio-containment unit. I’ll have Dr. Harmon speak to what our bio-containment unit is. We’ve seen six deaths here in Halifax. We’ve tested over a thousand of our patients here utilizing both commercial testing in the Cepheid platform that the Governor spoke to, the 45-minute turnaround. We’re prioritizing that type of testing for patients presenting to the emergency room that are symptomatic as well as our workforce. And if you look at the workforce here at Halifax, we have approximately 4300 team members, somewhat of a small city. And even within our workforce in a hospital environment, and this is an attestation to the fact that the hospital is a safe place to be, we’ve seen very, very little numbers of our employees that have tested positive for this virus.
Jeff Feasel: (13:40)
So that is an attestation to our environmental services and our infection control teams that are doing the sanitation, that the hospital is a safe place to come and be. So don’t stay away if you are ill. Our emergency room volumes are approximately 50% of what they typically would run. That says that people aren’t utilizing the emergency room as they’ve, at least traditionally, done. So we encourage you if you have symptoms, whether it’s COVID symptoms, stroke symptoms, heart attack symptoms that you get to the hospital.
Jeff Feasel: (14:17)
The surgery portion, we are ready to open up tomorrow. We do have a backlog of elective surgeries that have taken place. We have continued to do emergent surgery such as heart bypass, neurosurgery, trauma surgery, obviously, that needs to take place, but there’s also emergency appendectomy. So Dr. Feezor here is a part of our surgical task force that is analyzing the surgeries that need to take place as well as developing procedures as we go forward, how to safely reopen. On a typical day we would have approximately 80 procedures taking place across our system. Tomorrow we’re scheduled to open up with 25 elective procedures to kind of ease back into it, and that ramps up to approximately 40 on Tuesday. And we’ll also have probably another 20 to 30 emergency surgeries. So we are happy to open up the doors to our elective procedures and, hopefully, get things back to a semi-normal state and see how things go. Dr Feezor, did you want to speak to the procedures that we put in place to make certain we’re opening up safely?
Dr. Feezor: (15:33)
Sure. Yeah. First I’d like to echo Jeff’s sentiments. Governor, thank you for your leadership, your clarity with your messages and your transparency with all the data that you have for giving to us as a medical community and the public at large. It’s nice to get back to elective surgery tomorrow. I think that working with the hospital, we have a great approach making sure that everyone’s going to be treated safely. Everyone’s being screened at certain checkpoints several days before surgery. Then when they come in the building, we have visitation guidelines to make sure that the hospital stays as safe as it is now, that the patients are cared for safely, but our message is to get all the patients, if you need surgery, now is as safe as ever. We can do it safely, and we’re going to open up tomorrow morning, reduced volumes, but ramping up appropriately over the next couple of days to weeks.
Ron DeSantis: (16:22)
Can you just speak about the gamut of procedures that would be considered “elective”? I mean, because I think sometimes people hear elective and think unnecessary.
Dr. Feezor: (16:31)
Yes, sir. Absolutely. So for instance, tomorrow I’ve got some of the operative schedules, things like aneurysm surgery, limb salvage surgery, heart bypass, even some cancer procedures that maybe the providers over the past couple of weeks had decided that in the interest of public health and the patient’s safety and the staff safety, to delay a couple of weeks. It’s now time to do those procedures. And so not the trauma emergencies, which we’ve always done throughout this whole ordeal, but the things that are urgent. So heart bypass, leg bypass, aneurysm surgery, maybe a symptomatic gallbladder, symptomatic hernias and things like that now are safe to do.
Ron DeSantis: (17:06)
Great. And then Dr. Harman, can you talk about your unit and how you guys have handled the COVID patients that come in?
Dr. Harman: (17:17)
Yeah, sure. And I’d also like to thank you for coming by and seeing us firsthand. That means a lot to us. Yeah. So Dr. Steven Vill actually runs our emergency department, and he’s got quite a bit of training in public health as well. And he and Alberto Tonio, our COO, designed a space in the hospital on the ground floor that’s separated considerably from the rest of the hospital, sort of tucked between some warehouse areas and shipping platforms, but it’s nowhere near the main hospital. And it was turned into a negative pressure room by the strategic use of fans and vents. And this was all prepared prior to our first patient. So on that Saturday, about six or seven weeks ago when we got our first two patients, we had a place to bring them into the hospital without even going through the main part of the hospital. We’ve got a rear entrance that comes directly into that unit.
Dr. Harman: (18:16)
And I won’t lie to you, we invented some of it as we went along because we’d never handled anything like this before, but at least the basic unit was established and it worked out very well. And a cadre of nurses and respiratory therapists and environmental services people stepped up and volunteered to work in that unit. So we have kept the people who work in that unit separate from the main staff that work in the hospital. My intensive service has 10 people, but only two of us work in the COVID unit. So there’s two of us that are exposed daily to the virus. But we’ve kept that to a minimum so that the remainder of my crew can work among the hospital and continue to run the intensive care units like they’ve always done.
Dr. Harman: (19:12)
But as we came along, we and Steven Vill and Alberto designed a donning area for PPE and that sort of stuff. And then good flow through the room and then a doffing area where all contaminated material is removed, and changing areas and lockers, and a considerable hallway that one traverses to even get into this area. And like I said, we all come and go through separate doorways. So as a matter of fact, the vast majority of people that work at this hospital don’t know where this unit is. That’s how hidden it is. So we, we didn’t hide it on purpose. It just turned out to be the most strategic place for it.
Dr. Harman: (19:52)
And I think the most rewarding thing is that we haven’t seen the spread among employees elsewhere in the hospital at all. And we haven’t had any of the people that have worked in the COVID unit become infected. So clearly the PPE that we’re using is sufficient and adequate. And this is has been a little over six weeks now, so it’s way past the incubation period for a COVID virus infection. And if people were using inadequate protection, we would know it well by now, and that has not been a problem. I assume I’m a carrier, so I take extra precautions and so forth just because I’m exposed daily as do the other people that work in that unit.
Dr. Harman: (20:37)
But we were blessed in that we got two patients initially and then they trickled in, and the census in the unit usually runs in single digits. And we’ve got quite a routine 24 hours a day there that functions very well and safely. And so we’re to a point that if there were to be a surge at some point, we can handle a heck of a lot more patients. We could easily handle 20 to 25 patients in that unit if we had to. But in reality, today we have seven patients in the unit. We have one ventilator.
Dr. Harman: (21:14)
Another comment I’d like to make is that aside from the fact that this is really separated from the main hospital, is that… Now I’m not an epidemiologist and I can only speak from my experience here, but I’ve yet to have an otherwise healthy, middle-aged person come in and end up on a ventilator. And you can be a bit overwhelmed by news stories. And I’m not pro or con any particular network or anything, but you can be a bit overwhelmed. And the simple fact of the matter is that literally everybody that is giving us trouble had preexisting conditions, usually nursing home patients, usually elderly, late eighties, early nineties, and frequently a period of decline prior to this particular infection. In some cases, they weren’t even seriously enough ill from the COVID virus to be a problem, but we had to isolate them because there are no other places for these patients to be housed until we made arrangements to test everybody twice before they return to a nursing home.
Dr. Harman: (22:27)
But the units worked out real well for us. And like I said, I can only speak from my personal experience, and we have all the resources we need and we have from the very start. We are kind of spoiled in there, actually. We get whatever we want, and clearly we wanted this to be successful. And the person that really took leadership on this actually is Dr. Steven Vill. He’s really the one with the public health experience who really set this up, and I had to show up and take the field, basically. But there were a lot of people here and certainly in environmental services that helped us create this room and so forth. And Mr. Tonio is with me on a daily basis going over everything from this room and so forth.
Dr. Harman: (23:15)
But we have not been overwhelmed by a surge at any time, and we have not faced any shortages. We have not lacked for any equipment. And having done this for over six weeks, I feel very comfortable as the Director of Critical Care here saying that it’s certainly perfectly safe to come to the hospital and have elective procedures done and so forth because I think we’ve proved that we’ve isolated the COVID unit from the rest of the hospital. Thank you.
Ron DeSantis: (23:50)
Great. Well, Dr. Crossman, do you want to talk just generally about, I think, you had made some comments about people when they have different conditions, what they should be doing, and obviously, I think there’s been a lot-
Ron DeSantis: (24:03)
And conditions, what they should be doing. Obviously I think there’s been a lot of discussion on the safety here, but maybe to reiterate that and any other thoughts you think are important.
Dr. Crossman: (24:08)
Sure. And I also want to reiterate, thank you, I really appreciate, and as a scientist we all do, leading by facts, and not fear. So I really appreciated you taking that stance as you began this discussion into moving into phase one. And as my colleagues have said, and Mr. Feasel, we have a whole team of very talented individuals. One of the ones I just want to mention is Ralph Jacob, who is our engineer, who just did an amazing job getting these negative pressure rooms and areas up and running. And we’ve just had a whole team of talented individuals from the top to bottom, from one side to the other, who have created this environment where you can feel comfortable, you can feel safe coming in. When you come into the hospital, one of the things I want to let everyone know is you’re going to be seeing people in masks, as we were when we came in. And you will be cared for by individuals wearing masks.
Dr. Crossman: (25:07)
And when you come to the door as a patient, you will have basic strategic questions asked of you. We’re still screening, doing particular questions to screen for your risk factors for COVID. We’re looking for symptoms. Temperature checks. We’re doing a lot of the retooling that a lot of the businesses out in our community have had to do, quite honestly, and even more. And we’re experts at working in isolating and quarantining positions. So we know what we’re doing here. We’ve had the luxury of time, six weeks, to work on making sure that we have taken our policies and made them COVID-informed, is the way I like to look at that. And so everything we do throughout the institution is designed to keep you safe, to take the best care of our patients. And I will also add that our physicians who have been on the front lines caring for these patients, have collaborated not only among themselves here in the enterprise, but also across the country, and across the world, quite honestly, making sure that they’re staying abreast of what the latest information is.
Dr. Crossman: (26:10)
We like the data, we like the facts. We like trying to incorporate that, and not just fly off on tangents. We believe that the care that we’ve been giving has been suburb. We’ve had some terrific outcomes, and I really appreciate Dr. Harman speaking to some of those specific situations. So as far as what we need to do, and part of your impetus has been to just educate everybody, educate about the facts, and then what we do know and what we have learned. And it’s so important to incorporate those things as we step back into this phase one. Because if we will continue to social distance, if we will continue with our hand hygiene, all of these things we’ve been talking about, we need to make sure that we’ve taken steps to protect the more vulnerable, and if you are among the less vulnerable, we’ve been talking about who tends to be more or less vulnerable. If you’re among the less vulnerable, we certainly want to be considerate of those who may be more vulnerable.
Dr. Crossman: (27:08)
And we may or may not exactly know who they are. It could be someone who is your same age, but has a lot of illnesses that you may or may not know about. So I’m really impressed and proud for the way Florida has stepped up, how this community has stepped up, this county has stepped up, our officials have stepped up and said, “Let’s move forward with education. Let’s inform this community, and step forward in the best, most conscientious, courteous, respectful way possible. And let’s get back to life.”
Ron DeSantis: (27:37)
Great. Well I want to thank everybody for all your hard work, and I’m excited that you’re going to be getting some of these procedures going again. I think it’s going to be good for the health of folks throughout the Volusia County region, obviously throughout the state of Florida. So as we’re going into phase one, we believe in doing safe, smart step-by-step approach. It’s not that there’s going to be an earth shattering difference between phase one and what we’ve been doing. I mean we’re deliberately going to be cautious. This obviously is very important. I don’t know, in the general public, they’re not necessarily going to see the difference, because they’re not coming to the hospital every day. But that will be obviously an important difference. Some of the other things in terms of some of the businesses and whatnot, small steps, not terribly different from some of the other stuff we’ve done.
Ron DeSantis: (28:27)
In fact, we’ve had retail open, Home Depot, all this. Obviously people have been going to grocery stores. So it’s designed that way. And I know there’s some folks who are saying, “Hey, just flip the switch, and just go be done with it.” But the country has never handled an epidemic like we handled this one, they didn’t in ’18, ’57, ’68, if you look at those pandemics. So nobody really knows, and anyone that tells you they know for sure, they’re not being honest. So I think that’s why being safe, smart and step-by-step is the appropriate way to consider that. And I think we’re going to respond well, and I think we’re going to be able to continue to take some good steps. But tomorrow’s just one step. It’s certainly not the Florida that we had in February, but I think that we obviously want to get get to where we’re back in the saddle doing a lot of great things. So thank you guys for all you’re doing, and I’ll be happy to take a few questions before I leave.
Speaker 3: (29:23)
How is the DOE addressing the thousands of applicants who say they meet all the requirements, they manage to qualify for benefits, but still have been deemed ineligible?
Ron DeSantis: (29:33)
Well the Department of Education is DOE. They don’t do unemployment. That’s DEO. Yeah DEO. So what I’m going to do tomorrow is, we are going to do, my press conference is going to focus on everything having to do with this, and we’re going to run through, because I think, clearly you’re starting, I mean they’ve now processed 700 million, I think they’re at now, and they’re doing this all weekend. They’ve paid 450,000 claimants. Probably there’ll be more as we go in. And so I think people, it’s been very tough because it’s a sudden abrupt change in the economy. And I know this was very difficult for a lot of people. The system just totally broke. It’s not a good system. We’re going to deal with that, but we had to make all these changes in really just 24/7, so that money’s going out. I think the questions we get now more than anything is, “Hey, I applied, but I was deemed ineligible, or my application.” So they’re going to address that, and show kind of some of the different things that may be troubleshooting.
Ron DeSantis: (30:33)
If you don’t qualify for unemployment benefits, if someone wasn’t working at all, or seeking employment, then they’re not going to qualify for unemployment. There are other forms of relief under the Federal Cares Act. So we’re going to outline all of that tomorrow, provide the most up to date statistics on how much money has been paid out, and hope to answer a lot of those questions. I’m going to have the secretary of DMS, who I put in, because we needed to get these changes done quicker, to run the unemployment. He’s going to be there, and I think people should tune in. I think that that will be very helpful, and I would say, the agency has been very proactive. If somebody is quoted in the newspaper saying, “Hey, I haven’t gotten my stuff.” They actually will go, and they will try to identify, okay, who’s the person? Look them up in the system, and see what the deal is.
Ron DeSantis: (31:22)
And if they see somebody talking on even social media sometimes, they’ll find people, and they will go and do this. I can tell you most of the cases that they’re finding are no social security number, out of state… there’s just a bunch of different things. So I think it’s going to be helpful to just kind of do a big run through, let everyone know where we’re at. I think the progress, given how bad the system was, people have worked really hard. We still got more work to do, but I think it’ll be helpful. That’ll be tomorrow. And I think people, if they’re interested, should definitely tune in.
Speaker 4: (31:55)
Governor on the subject of antibody testing, what company did you all source from, and has [inaudible 00:32:01] been concerned at all about reports that some of those are only 90% [inaudible 00:00:32:04]?
Ron DeSantis: (32:08)
So we sourced from the FDA-approved test. I don’t know the company’s name, but I think they sent the test to New York first, and then they send it to us. The surgeon general of Florida was adamant that you only do FDA-approved, because what you’ll find is the COVID-19, to the virus that causes COVID-19 is a Coronavirus. It’s not the only Coronavirus. If the test doesn’t have the specificity, then I could test positive for antibodies for the common cold, for example. Well that obviously isn’t helping us identify this. So yeah, this is an FDA-approved test. It will distinguish, at least FDA says, between the Coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and other Coronaviruses. So that’s very important to do. We also have another company in Florida that we have an agreement with, that is waiting for the emergency use authorization from the FDA. Obviously we’re going to want to see that before we put that into practice, but it’s a very important thing. If you don’t have an antibody test that can distinguish the validity of what we can extrapolate from that, it’s just not there.
Speaker 5: (33:19)
Governor, does it concern you that these companies, given the fast track with FDA, they simply submit a form, sign it, and the company doesn’t test that it works and it’s accurate, and they-
Ron DeSantis: (33:29)
Well I think there’s more to that. I mean they’re really going through a lot. If you look at what they did with Remdisiver, that had been going on, and I’m not saying Remdisiver is going to be effective. If you look at what they did with some of these Abbott Lab tests, this is something that they do look at, but what they do is, anything with Coronavirus, they are fast-tracking. So if some reputable company has a new test, that is going to be reviewed immediately by the FDA, whereas normally, that would take forever and a day even to just get your foot in the door. So I really appreciate… Dr. Hahn, who’s the commissioner, has been really, really great to deal with. Anytime we have an issue, I can call him directly, and he’s very responsive, and he’s working really, really hard.
Ron DeSantis: (34:12)
So I think they’re doing it the best way that they can. You obviously have to review this stuff. You can’t just willy-nilly say throw products out. At the same time, lives are at stake. And so if you let the bureaucracy grind this process to a halt, then you’re going to be missing opportunities to potentially help people. So I don’t think it’s any perfect solution, but I think they probably struck the balance as good as you can.
Speaker 5: (34:36)
Are you planning to do any blood draws to then test that, to then get those others-
Ron DeSantis: (34:42)
The Department of Health is working with OneBlood. As people give blood normally, we think that you’d be able to screen for the antibodies. So you may end up with a situation where X number of people have given from one part of the state, and we can see what percentage actually has the antibodies. That will be interesting from just a general societal perspective. It wouldn’t be a scientifically valid representative sample, but I think it would be an indication. So yeah, we’re going to do that as well. And I would also remind people out there, if you have had COVID, and you’ve recovered, and you give the blood, they can then use those antibodies for this plasma treatment, which a lot of physicians have had very good results with. So you have an opportunity to kind of help other people, who may develop this disease in the future, if you’re willing to donate the blood.
Ron DeSantis: (35:34)
And then once we do the antibody testing, because a lot of the people, if you look at all those antibody results, the inescapable conclusion is, a lot of people have had this and don’t even know they’ve had it. Because they just either never developed symptoms at all, or the symptoms were so mild, it was not anything you would even think of. When you’re in Santa Clara and Stanford is saying 50 to 80 times more people have the antibodies, than have tested positive in Santa Clara, that obviously is really significant…
Ron DeSantis: (36:03)
… Santa Clara, that obviously is really significant. New York, you look, I mean, they have more cases than anyone, documented cases, but I think there are 300 some thousand, but they have several million according to those antibodies, just in the city, I think, alone. So that’s really, really significant to know.
Speaker 6: (36:20)
Two more questions, please.
Speaker 7: (36:22)
Governor, you spoke a little bit about the different things that the state is doing to try and protect people in the nursing homes, but is there anything else that you think the state could do or that they’re working on because we’re continuing to see people in nursing homes dying? I think last I checked, it was over 400 deaths related to nursing homes.
Ron DeSantis: (36:41)
Right, but you have to also put that in perspective. We have two million more people than New York, for example, an older population. They’ve had thousands and thousands of nursing home deaths. So what we’ve done has been able to reduce what I think would be expected in terms of the fatalities significantly. Our death rate in longterm care facilities is way less than New York, New Jersey, all those other places, and many other places across the country.
Ron DeSantis: (37:07)
There’s a couple problems. One is the screening that we put in immediately, not every facility followed it. So there were sick workers who were allowed to go in and do the work. Well, this is a contagious illness and so you ended up having outbreaks. Then we started to see asymptomatic staff members. They passed the screening, they didn’t have a fever. They necessarily didn’t have contact, at least known contact, with people who had it.
Ron DeSantis: (37:32)
But then you’d go in a place, like Suwannee County had one, where you had dozens of staff and a lot of them didn’t even know they were sick and then that spreads to the residents. So one of the reasons we’re doing so much resources on National Guard for the nursing homes is we want to be able to identify people who are asymptomatic, identify who they’ve been working with, and then segregate that cluster so it doesn’t just continue to spread to the nursing homes.
Ron DeSantis: (37:59)
We’ve done a bunch of testing. I think it’s been effective, but then with this RV to be able to go in a mobile way, run the test, get the results, and then immediately isolate any staff that may be infected, that’s a huge, huge force multiplier. So that’s going to be coming online in a few days. We’re going to do a big announcement for that.
Ron DeSantis: (38:20)
If you look at the epidemic in Florida for certainly outside of Southeast Florida, and you look at the numbers where Volusia is, where Brevard, a lot of these places, Orlando, Orange County’s done a great job. The overwhelming threat is really in these longterm care facilities. It’s not permeating right now, knock on wood, hopefully that continues, to where you have this virulent infections like you would have in New Jersey or some of these other places.
Ron DeSantis: (38:46)
So if the nursing homes, we can continue to do things there, that is going to be the tip of the sphere. And then yeah, I would say even in Southern Florida, it clearly has spread more in a place like Miami, but you still have a significant fraction of those fatalities are from those facilities. So very, very important.
Ron DeSantis: (39:07)
But one thing that I would give our healthcare administration secretary, Mary Mayhew credit, she has been a hawk on this since the very beginning. I mean, before anyone was even talking about this, we understood this was where the vulnerability is, and she’s worked with the hospitals, she’s worked with the facilities, and really, really done well.
Ron DeSantis: (39:26)
And also Jared Moskowitz, who’s the Director of Emergency Management. I told Jared, I said, “Look, obviously, if we have PPE, if a hospital worker needs it, we need to get them masks, we need to do all that.” I was like, “But we’ve also got to get stuff to these folks working in the nursing homes, because if you have protection of the staff and you prevent an outbreak, that’s going to take stress off the hospitals,” because you have an outbreak in a nursing home, you’re going to see people end up coming here and obviously that’s going to reduce their capacity.
Ron DeSantis: (39:57)
Not that you want an outbreak anywhere, but you’re seeing places where you’re having outbreaks and 90% of the people are asymptomatic. In some of the younger cohorts, some of the prison populations that you’ve seen, very few have had symptoms. And so, the nursing home is really that, so we have sent out just from the state of Florida to longterm care facilities, seven million masks, a million gloves and half a million face shields just to those longterm care facilities. We’re requiring them to wear this stuff. A lot of them did have some, but they needed more. So we pushed out a lot and I think that that’s probably a very effective use of resources.
Speaker 8: (40:40)
What about the outbreaks in the prison?
Speaker 9: (40:42)
As we pick up phase one and there’s going to be close monitoring to how the situation behaves, what would be a possible scenario would you consider taking a few steps back until the situation might be friendlier?
Ron DeSantis: (40:50)
So what we’re going to do is we’re going to monitor the hospital capacity. The whole reason they did the mitigation was the fear of the hospitals being overwhelmed, and if that were to happen, that obviously would lead to really bad health outcomes, not just for COVID, but for every anything else.
Ron DeSantis: (41:07)
So we are going to look to see, do you have a trend where hospitals are starting to get overburdened, and if that is tied to anything that we’re doing in terms of phase one. But I also want to see if there’s a connection to that. I mean, for example, I view the nursing home problem as separate from whether businesses can reopen because if you’re doing things in the nursing home, we know we have to keep people out of there. I mean we know that.
Ron DeSantis: (41:34)
And so if there’s an outbreak there that may not be related to some of the other things that you’re doing. The other thing we’re going to look at, we’re going to expand, continue to expand, testing. As I’ve said repeatedly over the last week or so, this is just a fact, our drive through sites have fewer people go through than we have capacity to test by several thousand statewide. We could probably do another 2,500 statewide for that.
Ron DeSantis: (41:59)
Now, hopefully that’s just because people aren’t having symptoms. Maybe that’s a really good sign, but we’re going to continue to expand opportunities. I do think you’re going to have more testing. I think more businesses are going to want to be involved. Obviously, I’ve talked about private sector, like Walgreens, so you’re going to start to get even more. We typically, if you look this past week, yesterday we got about 15,000 test results, the day before, almost 19,000, day before that 21,000. So we’re going to be in, I think, 20,000 to 30. I think we’ll have capacity do even more.
Ron DeSantis: (42:34)
And there’s going to be more cases that are going to be found because we’re testing more asymptomatic people now. When this started, CDC said only test 65 and up who had traveled to China. I mean, it was so restrictive. They’ve loosened it, but we’ve loosened it even more and said, “Even if you don’t have symptoms, you can come get tested.”
Ron DeSantis: (42:53)
So what that will do, that will allow us to identify infected people who are very low risk for hospitalization or fatalities. But that’s a good thing that we know that because that could be somebody that could spread it to one of the vulnerable populations. So we’re going to identify more cases as we go along and I can already tell people that’s going to probably be spun in the media as, “Oh my gosh, Florida just had … ” Like the other day they had 995 new Florida cases on 4/30.
Ron DeSantis: (43:25)
Yeah, we tested 21,000 people that day and the percent positive was five. So we’re going to really be looking at that percent positive, making sure that that’s under 10%. Volusia is so low. I mean, when you’re in the 1.7, 1.4, 2.2, 2.2, 1.7, other than the prison positives, I don’t think Volusia’s been over 3% in about 10, 12 days. So that’s a really good sign. So looking at the percent that test positive and then looking at the hospitalizations.
Ron DeSantis: (43:58)
And then we’ll also look at things like the syndromatic indicators. We’ll look at the influenza-like illness indicators and see how things are going. But fortunately, I think the trend certainly on the syndromatic indicators, has been very positive statewide. And we have so much hospital capacity statewide. I mean, even Miami, which has 40% of our cases, they’ve typically had between 40 and 45% of their ICU beds have been empty this whole time.
Ron DeSantis: (44:26)
So we’re going to be looking at that, but I really believe that taking these smart, safe, and step-by-step approaches, it allows us to get the state back in a good direction without taking our eye off the ball with these vulnerable populations. And so all that continues, but I definitely think that you’re going to be able to do both.
Ron DeSantis: (44:48)
So I look forward to coming back here soon. I mean, man, the Daytona, obviously, the race got suspended the day I was here. They had a great next day. We want to see Daytona back the way it was. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m confident that we can get there. So everyone just hang in there and do your part. Thank you.