Aug 12, 2021

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript August 12

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript August 12
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript August 12

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a press conference on August 12 to provide COVID and Delta variant updates. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.

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Governor DeSantis: (00:00)
Wyman Duggan, Sam Garrison, Jason Fischer, and Cord Byrd. I have Kevin Guthrie, Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, and then we have Dr. Ken Scheppke, he’s the Chief Medical Officer for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. One of the things that we’re seeing… When you go back a couple months obviously there’ve been a big vaccination drive in Florida. We’ve done almost 4 million senior citizens, really focused on the seniors and the at-risk population. You saw that throughout the country.

Governor DeSantis: (00:32)
There was the hope. Well, we fully expected that to provide protection against severe illness, but there was also the hope that that potentially would create a protective shield of immunity to make it so that infection waves we’re not going to be as significant as we have seen in the past. I think on the former, if you talk to any of the hospitals throughout the State of Florida I think they will tell you that the overwhelming majority of the people that they are admitting into their hospitals for COVID are people that had not been vaccinated, the vaccinated population is less likely to be admitted into the hospital if they get infected and we are seeing breakthrough infections. And so from that perspective, preventing severe clinical outcomes, we’ve seen a lot of protection for a lot of vulnerable people and that has made a big, big difference.

Governor DeSantis: (01:24)
Now, what you haven’t seen is widespread vaccination limiting waves. It’s not just in Florida or the whole South, it’s all across the world. You look at Israel, they’re one of the most vaccinated countries on planet Earth and they’re having their biggest wave of infections that they’ve had throughout the whole pandemic. Obviously, Florida, other Sun Belt states, but even Hawaii, very vaccinated. We’re the most vaccinated state in the Southeast, and we’ve got over 85% of seniors fully vaccinated but yet you see with this Delta variant, more contagious, very easy to transmit and it comes really in waves.

Governor DeSantis: (02:03)
And so as we’re looking at that and saying, “Okay, vaccination is clearly helping reduce serious illness, it’s reducing your likelihood of being hospitalized, but you also have people who are being hospitalized. So what tools do you have that makes the most sense?” And one of the things we’ve been talking about recently is doing monoclonal antibody treatments such as Regeneron. We’ve done that, different hospital systems have done it, they’re doing it here in Northeast Florida. But it was something that the more we talked about it the more people had questions, a lot of people had not even heard of it.

Governor DeSantis: (02:36)
And so we see an effort to be able to supplement that effort here in Northeast Florida and other parts of the state we’ll have additional announcements very soon, partially to be able to get more people in. And we’re going to bring in a lot more Regeneron into Florida which I think is important, but also just to raise awareness that this is something, this is the most effective treatment that we’ve yet encountered for people who are actually infected with COVID-19.

Governor DeSantis: (03:04)
And the way it works, I mean, the core group of people that benefit from this are our folks that are at the most high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, so elderly people, people that have certain comorbidities, kidney problems, diabetes, morbid obesity, immunocompromised, this if applied early and properly has the ability to reduce your likelihood of being hospitalized by 70% in clinical trials. And I think if you talk to people that have had it in Florida, most people will say that if you do it early it really does help to resolve the symptoms.

Governor DeSantis: (03:45)
And so what we’re going to be doing here today is deploying a rapid response unit. This will start starting at noon. We’ll be able to deliver Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatments to folks. The key to this is if you’re in one of those high-risk categories and you become COVID-positive, doing it before the symptoms get very severe is when it’s most likely to work. And so part of it is some people don’t even know that this exists until they ended up getting admitted to the hospital and at that point it’s almost always too late for this to be effective.

Governor DeSantis: (04:22)
But part of it is just a natural human instinct. Maybe you feel some symptoms, test positive but you don’t feel that bad so you figure, “Hey, I’m going to clear this.” If you’re high risk though and it progresses, then you’ve missed your opportunity to have this be really effective. That early treatment is really what the Regeneron and the monoclonal antibodies represent, that’s really what we’re doing. They’re going to start by just taking referrals from the health systems here in Northeast Florida, but we are going to be moving to allowing this to be done on even an individual basis coming in and making appointments, and we think that that’s something that’s very important.

Governor DeSantis: (05:00)
Clearly this has now been employed on an emergency use basis since the end of last year, so we have a lot of time to have watched what’s happened and there’s clear benefits to this early treatment for keeping people out of the hospital and reducing mortality. And this is also true whether you’re vaccinated or not. I mean, obviously if you’re vaccinated we think the data in the hospital shows that your chance of being admitted and having a severe illness is less than if you weren’t. But at the same time we are seeing people testing positive in higher numbers and I think most people anticipated, and that’s just not in Florida, that’s really in places like Israel and other places around the world. If you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated, if you’re in those high-risk groups, you can still do the monoclonal antibody.

Governor DeSantis: (05:52)
The only issue I think the doctors would tell you is if you’re not vaccinated, high-risk, you come in, you get infected, come in and get it absolutely. You get the treatment. You have to ask the physician at what point in the future if you do want to get vaccinated do you have to wait because there’s antibodies and they want that to be able to clear. But that’s really at the end of the day the only major thing that, you need to look at.

Governor DeSantis: (06:18)
So, who are the high risk groups that would most benefit from this? Obviously elderly populations, people with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, morbid obesity, cardiovascular, chronic lung disease, people with sickle cell. Those are the folks that if infected with COVID-19 may end up seeing significant consequences and could result of course, in a hospital admission or worse. So if you do it early this has a great chance to resolve those symptoms short of you needing medical attention, and that’s really at the end of the day what it’s all about. We want to be able to do all we can to be able to do.

Governor DeSantis: (06:57)
Now, what we’re going to do is, we have this here. This is helping relieve some of the pressure because I know they’re doing a lot in these health systems, so this is supplementing that and we’ll expand as needed. And really it’s just a matter of, yeah, you can do it through IV or you could do it subcutaneously. If you do it subcutaneously it’s easier to do so you can probably get more people through if you have the appropriate setup. We’re going to be expanding as much as we can and we may use other footprints in Jacksonville and then we’re also looking beyond and throughout the State of Florida.

Governor DeSantis: (07:31)
There’s websites, HHS has a website for example about where you can get monoclonals. The problem is if you go on at some of these places, some of them have it but they just aren’t administering it and others don’t necessarily have it. What we’re looking at is, are there gaps in certain parts of Florida where we can bring some of these mobile units and then be able to offer this to folks who get infected in early treatment. And I think this is going to be something that has just got to become part of the standard of care as you go forward.

Governor DeSantis: (08:05)
This is going to be with us for a long time, I mean, I hear these politicians say they’re going to conquer it and end it. It’s not going to be eradicated, as we’ve seen it has different iterations. The vaccines obviously are helping people avoid severe outcomes but you’re going to continue to have this go in the different patterns. Understand if you’re in those risks groups that this is really something that you need to be thinking about if you end up with a positive test. We’re going to be doing that.

Governor DeSantis: (08:31)
We’re also going to be doing strike teams to be able to bring it into nursing homes if you have some nursing home infections. And we’ve seen that nursing home residents were some of the first people to be vaccinated and I think you saw a huge decline in cases in nursing home residents, but you are seeing more of that now in different places. And so if you do have somebody test positive obviously you can help that resident.

Governor DeSantis: (08:56)
You can also use a use it as prophylaxis. If there’s six other nursing home residents, maybe none of them have tested positive yet, you can go in and offer the Regeneron to them and that’s proven to help them avoid infection entirely if you’re able to get it early enough, and so we will be using it for that as well. So really focusing on providing early treatment for the most vulnerable to keep them out of the hospital and ultimately to save lives is what we’re going to do.

Governor DeSantis: (09:25)
Remember the sooner you do this, the greater the chances of success that you have. There’ve been a lot of people that have been helped by this, but I believe, I really believe that had more people known about this I think absolutely some of those folks would not have ended up needing to get admitted to the hospital. I want everybody to know that this is an important option, that this is an important way to be able to protect yourself in the event that you are infected and we’re going to be doing this in other parts of the state and obviously working with our long-term care residents who we’ve been working with from the beginning to make sure that they’re provided the type of protection that we can.

Governor DeSantis: (10:02)
I want to thank Mayor Curry for working with us over these many weeks, and also want to thank, Kevin Guthrie, Division of Emergency Management. He’s been working with all the different systems about different stuff that they needed. We’re going to hear from some of them and we look forward to being able to kick this thing off here at 12 o’clock. Mayor?

Mayor Curry: (10:23)
Thank you, governor. I just want to say over the last year and a half we’re grateful from when the virus was first with us and we had to rapidly expand testing. We didn’t know what we were getting into but we knew we needed it. You got it here. Jacksonville had tons of access to testing, then when we got into the new year and the vaccines rolling out, again, working with you and your team. Our vaccines readily have been and are readily accessible to our residents and now this antibody treatment, as the governor said, is not well-known by the community. It’s effective, it works. I was on a call yesterday with all of the hospital CEO’s in town and we had this discussion. People need to know this exists, they need to know that this unit is here if they don’t have access to their healthcare provider. Governor, thank you.

Governor DeSantis: (11:08)
Yep, absolutely.

Speaker 3: (11:11)
Hey, good morning, everyone. I just want to, again, thank the governor for his leadership on this breakthrough treatment. And I want to make sure that everybody knows that this is a quintessential example of where local and state government worked together very quickly to get something done. Again, I thank the City of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department, the Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department’s emergency management team, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office emergency response unit for getting all this set up overnight and of course our vendors. Again, governor, thank you very much for your leadership on that.

Governor DeSantis: (11:40)
And, Ken?

Dr. Ken Scheppke: (11:43)
Thank you, governor.

Governor DeSantis: (11:43)
You should tell them a little bit about yourself.

Dr. Ken Scheppke: (11:45)
For sure. All right, hello everyone. Dr. Ken Scheppke, I’m the Chief Medical Officer for the Florida Division of Emergency Management. I’m Board Certified in emergency medicine EMS. I want to thank the governor for highlighting this very important therapeutic advancement. Unfortunately I don’t think the word has quite been out there enough for this very effective treatment. It’s great for folks who are vaccinated but at high risk for progression of disease. It’s great for folks that are unvaccinated who get this disease, and it’s great for folks who they are unvaccinated, they are not ill, but they’ve come in contact with a household contact, if somebody who has gotten COVID.

Dr. Ken Scheppke: (12:18)
As the governor reported, folks who are at high risk for progression to severe disease or death from COVID-19, this therapy can reduce your risk of hospitalization and death by 70%. And that unvaccinated household context of those folks can reduce their risk of developing COVID-19 by over 80%. This is clearly one of the better therapeutics that we have out there and I’m really appreciative to you, governor, for getting the word out there because I think this will be very helpful for the State of Florida. Thank you.

Governor DeSantis: (12:43)
Great. And if you just… The data, as Ken said, the data is very strong. We have now a long runway where we’ve been able to do this. And in that obviously the data trumps, I mean, but it’s interesting just when you talk to people that have done this, there have been people that will get infected. They get hit, they test positive, they go get it, and then they’ll say in 24 or 48 hours they felt it was a totally different ball game.

Governor DeSantis: (13:11)
And what it is, is when you get infected your body produces antibodies to then fight the virus and people who end up having an easy time with COVID usually do that fine and they’re great. Folks who are in these higher risk categories, they sometimes don’t produce the type of antibodies that they need to be able to combat the virus and so what this does is it’s an antibody cocktail, it’s providing that, and then those antibodies get to work and really fight against the virus. And I think that’s why you’ve seen people will say that everything is resolved within sometimes 24, 48 hours. I mean, that’s a really, really big deal.

Governor DeSantis: (13:49)
And I think that part of the reason it isn’t as well-known is because this was given emergency use authorization about the same time that the Pfizer and the Moderna were under EUA approval. So obviously people were looking at the vaccines as a major thing and rightfully so. And so I think that this was something that even though the hospitals all embrace it we worked with them early on and said, “Do you need us to do anything?” They’re like, “No, we have it.” And most of them been doing well here in Northeast Florida. I was at Tampa General, they do a lot, we think the supplementing them now will be helpful.

Governor DeSantis: (14:20)
But it was there, but I think it was not something that was really publicized. And I don’t know, I mean, maybe people thought that if you tell them there’s a treatment then they wouldn’t necessarily get vaccinated. I don’t think it’s an either/or, I think we know in our situation, yeah, we have people in society that are not vaccinated, we also have people that are vaccinated who are still testing positive. And so either way if you get in that situation particularly in these high risk categories, this should be your stop. This is what you should be asking your doctor about and do this.

Governor DeSantis: (14:50)
The surgeon is probably going to do a standing order which will make our sites available to people if they meet the certain criteria, so they won’t even necessarily need a prescription from a doctor because we’ll have a standing order. Hopefully that’ll make it easier for people and it’ll increase access for folks going forward. This is just one thing we’re doing, we’re going to be doing more, but I do think that this is probably the best thing that we can do to reduce the number of people that require hospitalization. With that, I can take some questions. Yes, ma’am.

Kayla: (15:22)
Hi. Kayla, with First Coast News. Tuesday you were here and you said when asked about ventilators coming from the federal government that you were going to have to check in on that. We know as-

Governor DeSantis: (15:31)
Yeah, just something if I can clarify. I was asked about respirators which are actually different. And we’ve never really had any hospitals ask about it. What they had been asking about, which I thought related to respirators, was there was oxygen deliveries on these trucks that they thought were coming behind, so there was actually things to do to do the weights and measures and all that. There was not, to this day, any requests for respirators. The mechanical ventilators, we’ve been giving those out the whole time and what that was, was it’s just increasing our stockpile and that’s why they did it. It wasn’t anything that was specifically from a hospital per se, it was something that they do through FEMA as a matter of course.

Kayla: (16:10)
To follow up on that, 124 ventilators are now in our area, three hospitals here, and they have also said healthcare workers that they need help as far as supplementing their staff and that sort of thing right now. Do you have a message about possible other resources coming to our area and what would you say to these healthcare workers who are beyond exhausted right now?

Governor DeSantis: (16:28)
Well, I mean, the staffing has been really the biggest issue that we’ve dealt with throughout the whole pandemic. I mean, if you recall, you saw really significant changes in how some of this is done. You’ve seen a lot of people go to contract, so they literally could have a job at a hospital, change jobs, work for a contracting agency, and then still do the same job at the hospital. They make a lot more money and it’s a lot more expensive to do. There’s definitely a war to try to get staff. I think it’s been something that’s been difficult.

Governor DeSantis: (16:58)
We have provided a lot of staff in the past for that but our sense is that they deal with some of these agencies to try to bring people more in. That’s just the situation that you’re saying all throughout the country, but there’s no doubt, it’s not really a capacity issue as much as it is the stress on the staff when you have higher volumes of patients. Yes, sir.

Speaker 6: (17:22)
On the monoclonal antibodies, I believe President Trump used Regeneron when he had it last year. I’ve talked to a lot of patients who say, “Look, I’m interested but I have no idea how to get it.” Is this been something just for exclusive people and why has it taken this long to get it to a point where the average citizen can maybe even start to get access to it?

Governor DeSantis: (17:40)
The answer is when President Trump did it it was still an experimental so it had not been emergency use, so the average person on the street in October of 2020 would not have been able to it unless they were part of some type of trial or had different access. Once they got the Emergency Use Authorization it has been widely available, and so that’s been done mostly through hospitals, now increasingly through doctor’s offices. And I think part of the issue is there have been a lot of physicians, I think, Ken, would agree, there’s a lot of physicians that didn’t necessarily know about it. And some of the physicians were… More and more physicians are understanding it now and it was just the type of thing where I do think there was maybe people thought if you stress early treatment, then you were telling people that it’s not an either/or.

Governor DeSantis: (18:22)
Now, it’s pretty clear though that there was not as much knowledge. So I think it’s less about access but just about knowledge because if somebody gets infected what they’re thinking is, “Okay, I don’t necessarily feel that bad. I know I’m at risk but I’ll just ride it out.” And that’s what you normally would do on most… You don’t expect to go to the hospital until you start to feel really ill, but on this, if you have those risks, if you can do it early it really makes a difference.

Governor DeSantis: (18:50)
And so the access is there. We can place orders for 10,000 treatments at a time. And so we’re going to have… Obviously, you have staffing and stuff that you have to make sure they’re going to work here to try to make as many people go through here as possible, which will be really, really good, and the same thing as we go throughout the rest of the state. So access in terms of anybody, particularly if you’re in those high-risk categories, you absolutely are eligible for it. It’s just a matter of making sure that your health systems are offering it. Some clinics are doing it and then we’re now looking at saying, “Okay, we have some free-standing stuff that’s already been going on where people have come in to get vaccinated, to get tested, whatever, maybe we do a monoclonal and set it up in conjunction with some of those other things.”

Governor DeSantis: (19:42)
I think you’re going to start to see that. But since the EUA happened it has been available for everyone. I think initially they had had it with a more limited age range and then they’ve since dropped the age and so made it available to a wider group of people. But those really high-risk people, the elderly and some of those serious conditions, they have been available to them since the beginning. Yes, ma’am.

Speaker 7: (20:03)
Governor, this is a reaction to a diagnosis. Why not take more preventative measures? What would the level of infection here in Jacksonville be if you take those measures?

Governor DeSantis: (20:13)
Such as?

Speaker 7: (20:15)
Such as a mask mandate.

Governor DeSantis: (20:16)
Well, I think the non-pharmaceutical interventions we’ve seen, remember we were promised that they would end the pandemic, lockdown, school closures, mandates, and it just hasn’t done that. This is a very transmissible virus. The last iteration last summer, someone got infected, they’d likely infect one or two other people. This one they’re infecting more than that. It’s airborne, it’s aerosolized, and so we just have to understand that when that’s happening these waves are something that you have deal with with early treatment. Because we could sit there and say, “If we shut down schools it will go away.” It won’t, that’s not true. It would be very damaging to society to do that and to our communities. And so early treatment, I think, is probably the most effective thing you can do.

Governor DeSantis: (21:06)
Obviously, if you’re higher risk and you want to avoid certain situations, you want to take personal mitigations, by all means, do that, but just understand with how contagious this is. And we’re seeing these waves in other parts of the world and you will see them in other parts of the United States as the season changes. The fact of the matter is there’s going to be a baseline level of exposure to folks in the community, and so let’s just make sure this is out there, let’s make sure people have opportunities to be able to do it. I can tell you it will absolutely make a difference in reducing the number of people going to hospital.

Governor DeSantis: (21:41)
But it doesn’t mean you don’t do some of the other stuff. I mean, I think if you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated you still do this if you’re high risk and you get infected, but of course the hospital census when you look, I mean, that’s pretty strong data that we’re seeing across Florida of the folks who tend to be admitted to hospitals now and how that’s different from last summer when we didn’t have the widespread vaccination of our elderly population. Yes, sir.

Speaker 8: (22:06)
Governor, with regards to your reports since this comes out, why not go back to daily reports that y’all did for may months given the prevalence of the virus? And secondly, if you’re not doing daily reports, why not on the weekly reports provide more information on a county level basis in terms of the deaths which are reported demographically-

Governor DeSantis: (22:25)
Well, they might, yeah. I think the latter part’s a good point. I mean, as we’ve seen we’ve had a wave of infection, but it has not been uniform in terms of when it really started. It started in Northeast Florida before other parts of Florida. We think the indicators with the seven-day moving average, as I mentioned the other day, that’s down for cases. Our t-value actually today according to the Stanford and Yale models down to 0.81, which is definitely the right direction, as well as the ED visits for CLI which has trended down as well. Those are good indicators.

Governor DeSantis: (22:59)
And yet some of the other parts of the state I think that the growth has slowed but they may not have necessarily gotten past that. So we’ll look at that. I think it is a huge state and I think that these waves are not necessarily uniform and in terms of how they do. But I would just point out, I mean, with these daily cases, those are reported publicly every day to the CDC so people have access to that. But in terms of the breaking it down by county ,yeah, that may not be a bad idea going forward.

Governor DeSantis: (23:31)
I know we used to look at that a lot. Clearly you can follow where the hospital admissions have been and if you look back to last summer’s wave and compare different parts of the state, in Northeast Florida they’ve had the biggest increases over and above last summer compared to say Miami-Dade, which hasn’t necessarily reached their hospital admission level that they had last summer. Those are important things to know and obviously the community, people should just be aware when you have higher prevalence whatever types of personal mitigation do you want to take you obviously will be able to do it.

Governor DeSantis: (24:06)
We’re going to look forward to having people come in today starting at noon. This is just the beginning, we’re going to be expanding this more. And as we go forward we’re going to see…. The current wave, it’s going to go, we’re going to see that in the different parts of the Sun Belt, including Florida. But it’s not going to go. COVID is not going to go away, we’re going to have future, I think, trends. That’s just natural. The question is how are we going to approach it? You can approach it on the front end by protecting yourself, but of course, if you end up in a situation where you are infected and high-risk, getting in here early, this is the best shot we’ve got right now to keep people out of a hospital and keep them safe. Thanks, everybody. I appreciate it. All right. Thank you.

Mayor Curry: (24:53)
It’s such a pleasure.

Governor DeSantis: (24:53)
It was nice doing this with you. Thanks. Oh my God. Hey I got to see you there, thank you.

Speaker 9: (24:55)
Thank you, governor.

Governor DeSantis: (24:55)
Of course.

Speaker 3: (24:55)
You guys, I think you better have a full camera to go inside so get to roll with what’s going inside, so you see that. Just give us a…

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