May 11, 2020
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 11
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a coronavirus press conference on Monday, May 11. Read his full news briefing speech here.
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Governor Ron DeSantis: (00:04)
Well, good afternoon. It’s great to be in Southwest Florida. I want to wish everybody a belated Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day. Was able to talk to my mom, which I really appreciate all she’s done. And then also my wife is now a mother yet again with our third, who’s about six, seven weeks now. And so we had three kids, three and under running around the house yesterday. So it was an interesting Mother’s Day, but we appreciate all the moms out there for all that you do. And particularly for a lot of what you’ve had to do these last couple of months.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (00:37)
Couple of things to highlight, I think, just generally about the state, 64 of the 67 counties. We’re in Phase One, starting March 4th, we’ve obviously added Palm beach County. If you look at the trends of some of the things that we monitor, I think you see a lot of positive trends.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (00:57)
Today, the state of Florida is reporting 405 new cases for Florida residents, but we’ve received about 20,000 test results. And that’s about a 2.12% positivity rate. We were on the call with the Vice President today, Dr. Birks, and they are really stressing the rate of positivity. Anything under 10% is considered good. Under 8 is really good. We in the state of Florida, since for May, we’ve not had one day where the new cases were more than 5%. It’s ranged from 1.87 to 4.83. And that’s been a pretty consistent trend, I think, over the last two weeks.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (01:42)
Another thing, though, to look at, as you look at the numbers, and it’s not always made clear… Well, first of all, statewide, the trends are good. If you look at our ICU hospitalization, statewide, you go back, first week of April, we were over 850 patients in the ICU statewide. And that is still much lower given our population than many of these other states. But nevertheless, that’s where we were. As of last night, we are at 467 patients in the ICU statewide. Ventilators, 263 ventilators in use for COVID patients statewide. We’ve got to [inaudible 00:02:21] that Phase One and want to see, okay, how are things going in Phase One?
Governor Ron DeSantis: (02:26)
If you look at the 64 Phase One counties, we are looking at about 200 people in the ICU. And the Phase One counties represent 16 million Floridians. You have 854 hospitalizations as of last night for the Phase One counties. Again, 16 million Floridians. To put that in perspective, if you take just Miami-Dade, and they have trended down, too, and I think they’re going to continue to do that. But if you look at the hospitalizations in Miami-Dade, there’s more hospitalizations in Miami-Dade than in Collier, Lee, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Orange and Duvall combined, and it’s not even close.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (03:06)
And so as we look at Phase One, look to see what’s happening in those Phase One counties, for example, today’s report from the numbers on May 10th, of the 405 new Florida cases, only 187 of them were in Phase One counties. And so out of the 16 million, 187 cases, then out of the 6 million with Southeast Florida, you have the majority of the cases still. And that’s been a pretty consistent theme throughout this from the very beginning.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (03:38)
Incidentally, the percent positive rate for just Phase One counties for the reports today, 1.43% of the tests, new tests, came back positive. That means 98.6 or 98.57 are coming back negative in Phase One counties. And so that’s a good sign. We want to continue to monitor that. And particularly the hospitalizations and the ventilator and the percent positive, those are really, really important. We’ve been in good shape, even including Miami, but obviously when you look at the 64 counties, it’s even, I think, more significant.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (04:21)
We also unveiled, both by sending to the hospitals, but also for our drive-in serological testing, antibody testing. So we started doing this for first responders and for healthcare workers in some of our drive-through test sites. So they did it at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami-Dade, Orange County Convention Center, the Palm Beach site in West Palm, and then at the Jacksonville Jaguars Stadium. This test for whether your body has developed the antibodies, which it creates in order to fight the disease, so if you have the antibodies, that means you had the infection and the disease at some point… Given that we now know probably the bulk of these infections lead to people developing either no or mild symptoms, particularly in the younger age groups, it’s really important to do the antibody testing so we get a sense of how widespread this has been, particularly as we look back to figure out when it was first introduced into the United States, which I think is earlier than what people had thought previously.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (05:26)
So the antibody testing we had in Miami, it was about 10% of the people that went through tested positive. In Jacksonville it was about half a percent. And so you look to see the more prevalent antibodies in an area where you have more prevalent, documented infections, and then a place like Duvall to have 0.5%, Duvall has had relatively modest in terms of hospitalizations. And they’ve had a different, I think, epidemic there than they have in Miami-Dade.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (05:59)
So we’re going to continue to offer this on a drive-through basis. We’re also giving this to hospitals. And so I told Larry if Lee Health has, if they’ve already asked for it, then you’re getting it. If you haven’t asked, we’ll do it because having the doctors and the frontline healthcare workers get tested for antibodies is definitely a priority of ours. And we want to continue to do that.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (06:21)
So we are monitoring the data. We’re also taking additional steps to be able to keep Floridians safe. One of the things that we worked on immediately was policies to protect nursing homes and long term care facilities. And so in March, we did an order, not allowing visitation into nursing homes, but also, and this hasn’t gotten as much play, but I think it’s critical, not allowing any sick COVID-positive patients to be returned to the nursing home. You look, some other states actually had a policy of forcing nursing homes to take COVID-positive patients back. Some of these nursing homes were not equipped to be able to handle that. And so Florida, we thought that that would be a huge risk and we went the opposite way. And I think that that’s proven to be effective, but we also understand that as we have expanded testing into some of these facilities, you actually have… even some of the elderly residents who get infected, they don’t show symptoms at least immediately.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (07:25)
And so, as you’re doing more surveillance testing, we’ve got National Guard units, I’ve got a mobile RV lab, and you identify somebody that’s positive. We want that individual… If the nursing home or the long term care facility doesn’t have the capacity to appropriately isolate. And we do have some great facilities in Florida that have negative pressure rooms, have an ability to [inaudible 00:07:47]. Many don’t. So if you can’t do that, we want that patient to be transferred.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (07:51)
Now, the problem is, or was, that the nursing homes got more money to keep the patient there than the hospitals would get to keep the patient here to convalesce. And so we did last week, with Secretary Mayhew, sent a letter to Seema Verma, asking for a waiver so that hospitals would be able to get reimbursed at a higher rate. If they accept a COVID-positive nursing home patient.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (08:16)
And so they granted that waiver request, and it’s not going to only be hospitals because there are other facilities that can do this as well. But we think that that’s important.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (08:24)
If you look around the country, you’re starting to see outbreaks primarily associated with prisons, meat packing, and other types of processing plants, and then the nursing homes and assisted living facilities. And so this is really the tip of the sphere and we want to do as much as we could do.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (08:42)
So what that means is even though you look over the last week or so, hospitalizations throughout the state, I think, are down 5 or 6%. That also includes some folks in Miami and Broward who have been transferred in because they were in facilities where it wasn’t clear that the facility would be able to prevent an infection from spreading. And so that is something… We think isolating people is important. And we think allowing it to spread, particularly in an environment like a long term care facility, is something that would be hugely problematic. And so we’re really intent on pulling all the levers we can to be able to prevent that from happening.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (09:24)
One of the things that Secretary Mayhew has done very smartly is she has identified some facilities that are COVID compliant, that could handle COVID patients with appropriate isolation, and not run the risk of infecting other people. She contracted with one in Jacksonville that we highlighted last week. And what they’ve done, it hasn’t been a huge number, but they’ve had patients from all around the region given to them. These are patients who either don’t require full hospitalization or could be discharged from the hospital. They now have a safe place to go. And you’re obviating the risk of having major infections in a longterm care facility.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (10:04)
And so even if you’re talking about a handful of people, if any of those folks get reintroduced back in the facility, that can end up infecting many, many more people. So we’re going to continue to do that. But I think that that’s a good start to be able to say that we understand how the spread there could be a big, big problem.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (10:24)
So the hospitals, I think, are going to be compensated better through CMS, which is important. And then the Secretary, she’s been able to do some of these arrangements, which I think really increases safety and really has done a lot.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (10:38)
Another thing with respect to testing… Well, first with the long term care, what we’ve done is I have 50 National Guard teams, four man strike teams, they’re going around and they’re testing at these long term care facilities.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (10:52)
We have had some who have not wanted to be tested. And our view is, and Secretary Mayhew issued a rule, is if you’re a staff member, you’re working at one of these facilities, you need to get tested. Because that’s how it’s being brought in, asymptomatic staff members. Sometimes staff will visit different facilities or different wings within the same facility. So to say you’re not going to get tested… So that is required if there’s testing available to do it.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (11:20)
And so those National Guard teams have done a lot of tests. We’re going to keep on doing a lot of tests. We did start the Mobile RV, which has a 45 minute rapid test where we got from Cepheid. So they are now going… And it’s a hub-and-spoke model where they’ll go to a community, they’ll have different nurses and healthcare workers go to different facilities, collect samples, bring them back, run them through the machine, and you get the results back on the same day. So that debuted last week, that’s going to be going across communities in Florida to continue to be really on offense when it comes to testing and longterm care facilities. That mobile lab, I think is probably something that we may-
Governor Ron DeSantis: (12:03)
I think it’s probably something that we may even replicate if it proves to be successful. I think it has been very successful so far.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (12:09)
Another thing that we’re looking on getting for the state are antigen tests. So this is a diagnostic test, different from a PCR test. It’s basically a rapid test. I think the one that just got the emergency approval from the FDA that gives results in 15 minutes. So the antigen test, different from a PCR test, but I think it will be able to be mass produced easier. You get the results quicker. If you’re positive on the antigen, I think it pretty much means you test positive on the PCR. You test negative there’s a little bit, slightly less specificity there. I mean, not a huge deal, but in this it’s important and so I think the folks who are going to be administering it are going to understand it but we still think it’s something that’s important. So we’re going to be working on bringing as many of the antigen tests as we can to the state of Florida.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (13:02)
We also have the Remdesivir, which is a therapeutic, that just got approved by the FDA for emergency use and it’s been, the company Gilead, they donated certain number of doses. So those are going to be a portion among the states. There were some that went out immediately to the most high risk states. Florida didn’t qualify as that but we are now getting in this second tranche. So we’re going to be getting the Remdesivir and then sending it to the hospitals who need it and who think it could be useful for patient care.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (13:37)
I have no idea whether this thing is effective or not. I’m not making any representation. I know it’s been approved. It’s really a decision of a doctor and a patient, whether that should be used, but we feel if we can at least get some and give it out and let them have the option that that’s definitely the right thing to do on that, so we look forward.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (13:57)
We’ve talked about PPE. Obviously that’s been an ongoing issue. The state of Florida, since this began, we will have by the time this week’s weekends and all our shipments go out, we will have sent to healthcare workers and first responders more than 25 million masks, more than 10.3 million gloves, nearly 1.7 million face shields, more than 1.1 million shoe covers, 462,000 gowns, more than 200,000 containers of hand sanitizer, 89,000 goggles and 39,000 coveralls. It’s been a very important mission but it’s really important to support the folks are on the front lines.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (14:39)
But we also recognize that our folks working in these longterm care facilities need protection as well. So just for longterm care facilities, the state of Florida has sent more than 10 million masks, 1 million gloves, half a million face shields, and 160,000 gowns and I was able to go a couple of weeks ago to the White House and kind of talk about some of the things Florida’s done. The federal government was impressed with that. They mimic that. So they’re now sending PPE to all the longterm care facilities throughout the country. So all our facilities will get even more PPE, which is great, but that’s really important because if that’s properly worn as required, that could be the difference between preventing one of the elderly residents from getting infected.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (15:27)
Quick update on the re- employment. So this weekend, as I promise, there’s going to be a used to do a lot of processing. So Friday, Saturday, Sunday, the number of payments that were sent out or approved, 764,324. The number of unique claimants that that represents is 669,120 unique claimants. New claimants that have been processed and now approved for payment, 166,609. So just from the weekend, you’re looking at 442,000, or excuse me, 442,695,297. So total, I think we’re between 1.5 and 1.8 billion that’s gone out, but I think certainly the new claimants being moved through with something that I told them, we wanted to make sure people were seeing that and so they have seen it. So I appreciate them working all through the weekend to be able to make some more headway there.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (16:32)
So finally, before I kick it over to Larry, I want to have the physicians talk about some of the things they’re doing. Phase One that we did it really, I think generally was not a huge change from what had been going on. You did have a lot of retail that had been operating. Now you have more retail. You did have supermarkets and people going to Costco and doing takeout. Well now at a restaurant, you could sit outside or limited seating inside. So in those senses, they were small steps to return to normal, but not a huge see change.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (17:08)
I think the biggest change with Phase One has been bringing back online, these “elective medical procedures,” and a lot of times people hear the elective and they think, “Well, is this like cosmetic surgery?” No, these are things that are necessary. It may be elective as to when you schedule it, but you need to do it. And so to be able to get this back online, we now have healthcare systems around the state who are moving forward to bring people in, to get them care that they really do need. So I’m going to let them talk about that in a sec.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (17:42)
But one of the things I would say is, I’ve been to so many hospitals during this time, met with so many great physicians and hospital executives and I can tell you, these are very safe places to be if you’re having health problems. One of the things that people notice, not just in Florida, but around the country is when the pandemic hit in March, you started to see a huge reduction in people going in with heart problems, stroke symptoms, and most people don’t think that those all of a sudden disappeared.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (18:11)
It was people were concerned about going in a medical environment given the advent of the Coronavirus and I’ve not talked to a single physician that would recommend not coming in if you’re experiencing those types of symptoms, If you need medical attention, this is a safe place to be. Come in here, see the doctors and keep yourself healthy. Very, very important. And I would also say for parents, one of the things that we’ve noticed is a decline in the immunizations for children.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (18:44)
The surgeon general of Florida is a pediatrician and something that he will bring to my attention often because we have seen measles outbreaks in different parts of the country just before all this started and so if you’re not keeping up on that, that’s a problem. So follow that immunization schedule. Continue to do it. It’s safe to do it. It’s the right thing to do. And he, our surgeon general very, very insistent on that message.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (19:12)
So I’m glad to be here. I will turn it over to Larry. Want to thank him for working so hard over these last couple months. We were all bracing in March and I know they were preparing very early and I think we’ve been very successful in how they’ve managed this here in Southwest Florida. So I just want to one, just commend them for all their efforts, and then two, allow him to say a few words and then hear from our great physicians.
Thank you, governor. Thank you for being here today and for your leadership through this. We here at Lee Health have been planning since February for COVID-19 and we saw our first patient on March 6th. We set up our incident command center within a day and we were doing remote testing within nine days.
At the forefront of all of our planning was the safety of our patients and our staff and we took unprecedented efforts to make that happen, one of which was to suspend elective surgeries.
Before the pandemic, we were doing approximately 300 surgeries a day. After the suspension, we dropped down to about 110 and we are ready now to restore doing elective cases on a safe, judicious manner. This past week, we increased the count to about 165 cases a day, which represents about a 40 to 50% increase from our baseline, but still puts us at about half of what we were doing beforehand.
We know that there are patients out there who need surgery. As Governor DeSantis said, these are necessary surgeries, although they may be elective and we want to assure the community that it is safe to come in to have these procedures. It is safe to come to our emergency room if you’re having symptoms that require emergency care.
So with that, I’d like to turn it over to some of our surgeons who can speak to the experience over the past week and the incredible work they’ve been doing, not just in the past week, but for weeks as they’ve geared up for the suspension and now the resumption of surgery.
Doctor Maholick you want to start?
Doctor Maholick: (21:15)
Thank you very much, Larry, for your leadership through this. And thank you again, Governor DeSantis.
Doctor Maholick: (21:20)
I just want to reiterate both the other gentleman’s commentary about seeking out medical care that you truly need. So a lot of times when we schedule somebody for elective surgery, the thought is maybe by family or the other people in the community that the surgery could be put off forever.
Doctor Maholick: (21:35)
So what we did on March 20th is we suspended a so-called elective surgeries at that time and only did surgeries that were so-called urgent or emergent. During that time, what happened is some surgeries were put off that maybe could wait a week, maybe it could wait a month. Maybe it could wait a few months, but at some point, all those people really do need that necessary medical care.
Doctor Maholick: (21:57)
So whether it’s elective surgery, whether it’s medication, whether it’s follow-up with your medical professional an emergency room visit, immunizations, I would just let everybody in the community know that it’s safe to seek medical care. As surgeons, we frequently assess the risk benefit ratio as to what your individual case may be and how long it’s safe for you to wait for your surgery, or whether it’s medically appropriate based on your medical situation at the time, whatever surgery may need.
Doctor Maholick: (22:26)
We have a structured, incremental plan in place to slowly ramp up surgery. So I don’t want anybody to get the impression that we’re just turning on the faucet and we’re going full bore ahead with all these elective surgeries. What we’re doing is we’re prioritizing patients according to how much PPE is available, according to a patient’s symptoms and how long they might be able to wait. But I encourage anybody who might need surgery or anybody that might need medical care, to make sure and speak to their doctors so they can make sure and understand their risks.
Thank you, John. Doctor Dyke.
Doctor Valerie Dyke: (23:02)
Thank you. Thank you, governor. I’m Doctor Valerie Dyke. I’m the Chairman of Surgery here at Gulf Coast Medical Center and as Doctor Maholick said, we did shut down the elective procedures in what we thought was a very safe fashion, because we were challenged with trying to care for our patients, but at the same time, protect our most valuable resource, which is our hospital staff and also we had to consider the PPE. I think that the hospital system has done a tremendous job with the support of the governor. We have what we need. We feel that the hospital is safe. We are ready to start taking care of patients. We are looking forward to that. We want people to contact us and we in turn are contacting our patients. We have them listed in our offices, stratified case by case. We know exactly who they are and that they need to get in and have their surgery and we are ready to do that and I hope that people feel as confident as we do.
Dr. Valerie Dyke: (24:03)
And I hope that people feel as confident as we do that when we contact them to schedule their surgery, that it will be done in a way that is going to help everyone keep our hospital workers safe. It will not overstress the PPE because the hospital system is keeping very close track of that every day. And we feel that we are really ready to take care of all of the patients who have waited for us.
Dr. Charlie Bisbee: (24:31)
I’m Dr. Charlie Bisbee. I’m chairman of the department of anesthesia. It’s been a long road here, and I want to thank Governor DeSantis for all the leadership he’s shown. We started out with a committee here with surgeons, administrative teams and anesthesia from throughout the system at all the hospitals to come up with a plan to manage a situation. And we were just going to do urgent and emergent surgeries. We did that successfully. We developed parameters for all of the subspecialties as to what urgent and emergent was. And we instituted that plan with a decrease from 16 rooms, for example, at Gulf Coast Medical Centers, running eight rooms. And that was very well done. And one of the special things that happened during this process is the level of comradery that we’ve seen among all of the surgeons, the anesthesia team, all the medical staff, the administration, et cetera.
Dr. Charlie Bisbee: (25:25)
It’s almost like we have a group thing going here in which we’re focused on the solutions we arrive at good conclusions and then implement plans in a very efficient fashion. Our ramp down committee turned into the ramp up committee just a week ago or so. And we increased our number of elective surgeries by about 50% in the operating room, here at Gulf Coast Medical Center.
Dr. Charlie Bisbee: (25:50)
I want to say a few things that all these patients are being taken care of in a very safe fashion. If you’ll notice all the patients come in wearing a mask themselves, all of our staff wears a mask, gowns, et cetera. So our level of concern for the patient is reflected in how we are preparing with protective gear to ensure that there’s a minimal chance of any transmission of virus. I, myself technically by virtue of my age, would be considered to be in a high risk group. But with the level of PPE protective gear that we’re using these days, I feel very safe practicing here in the hospital. And I think that the message to our patients that the community is they should feel safe also. If you have a surgical procedure, if you have a medical issue that you feel needs to be addressed, don’t hesitate to come to the hospital, see your doctor, and don’t let COVID discourage you from doing that. Thank you.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (26:52)
Can you just, maybe doctor just like emergent and the things that were credible, that we’re still going. What kind of things have been going on the whole time? And then what are kind of some of the new things that would be just that people would be able to relate to in terms of the types of procedures?
Dr. Valerie Dyke: (27:09)
Sure. When we started out, we had the five chairman of surgery meeting with the 16 section chiefs of divisions of surgery, like orthopedic surgery, ENT, colorectal surgery. I’m a colorectal surgeon. And we decided within our groups what would be considered emergent and what we would do and what we would not. And then we also decided a system of, to kind of keep everyone in check for what we would schedule. And that has not been a problem. It’s been a very collegial atmosphere as far as really keeping the surgeries limited to saving life and limb, fractures, cancers, infections.
Dr. Valerie Dyke: (27:53)
So for my line of work specifically, I would say we’ve taken care of colon cancer. If someone has had diverticulitis and they’re waiting for their surgery, now we’re moving into that phase where it was not an emergency, but you know that you needed to move forward with surgery. And now we’re going to be able to do that. Moving forward, we’re going to get to people who need to schedule their 50 year old screening colonoscopy. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re moving in that direction. So we’re going through in a very organized fashion and we literally have lists of patients in our office and they’re organized that way so that we know who we’re able to contact first.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (28:32)
What’s been the response, I don’t know anyone can take it from patients about wanting to come in versus not wanting to come in? Have you seen any change over the course of the last two months about people being more willing to come in? I’d just be interested in your thoughts.
John M: (28:47)
Sure. It’s John Maholick orthopedic surgery. Yes, in the beginning, I think that we had a lot of fear across the spectrum within the community, as far as whether they would want to access even private health offices, access to the emergency room, access the hospital. And it seems as people are becoming more comfortable with the data, more comfortable with where the virus is that people are beginning to seek out more care. And that seems to be apparent by the volume of patients we’re seeing in the office and the response we’re getting from patients when we’re contacting them, letting them know that they’re semi urgent surgery that could be delayed now can be done since the elective surgery ban has been lifted. So we’re now moving to a phase where I would say we still do have some people in the community. Maybe they’re at risk individuals. Maybe they’ve had some exposure. Maybe they have some other fears who are still somewhat afraid, but that the pendulum has clearly swung in the opposite direction. By this point.
Dr. Charlie Bisbee: (29:59)
I just saw a patient today who just had a hernia that needed to be repaired and talking about urgent and emergent situations becoming more necessary as time goes on. He has a wife that is somewhat of an invalid, and he has to lift her frequently and the hernia was getting worse and worse. And so he expressed to me today in the preoperative area, how happy he was to finally be able to get the surgery done. So I think we’re seeing this across the board that patients want to come and have the surgery done. It’s not unnecessary surgery, it’s surgery that needs to be done, and they’ve waited a long time to have it done.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (30:35)
Great. One thing I’ll just say, just generally for the folks in the community, we have drive through testing sites throughout the state. We do have one, and I know the hospital here has done a bunch of great testing. There’s a lot of great testing going on apart from what the state’s supporting. We have them at our drive-through sites have done about 130,000 tests. We also have walkup sites where we put particularly in underprivileged neighborhoods, and that’s done about 20,000. We’ve only been really doing that for a few weeks. And then obviously our National Guard and RRV. So very, very important, but with the drive-through sites and the one in Lee County is at Century Link. We can accommodate a lot more than people are showing up. We did 2,200 tests yesterday. Now granted some of them were closed because it was mother’s day. But I think if you look, we’re typically seeing between 4,500 and 5,000 people come through all our sites, the average for the one in Lee County has been 244 people. That could accommodate 750 a day. No problem. So if people want to be tested, this is certainly one avenue that you can go and we’d encourage people to want to come out and be tested. It’s important to have access to testing throughout the state, which we’ve worked really, really hard on for the last couple of months. We do have sites and in most of the areas, certainly with any populated area at this point. But we just need more people to want to go out and get tested and look, maybe just people don’t feel sick, which is a great thing. But even if you don’t feel symptoms, if you think maybe you were in contact with someone who has tested positive, or you just feel a need to, we would encourage you to come out and to get tested. So, and with that, I’ll take some questions before I have to get going.
Speaker 2: (32:32)
So there are [inaudible 00:32:36] there are monitoring social media, thousands of people who are still asking why they haven’t gotten the check after nine weeks, what can you say to them? We’re also hearing about sporadic payments going to help people maybe getting one or two, $600 checks.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (32:51)
So I went over the figures, I told the folks. So by the beginning of last week, there had been close to half a million unique claimants paid, and there’d been over a billion dollars that had been paid out. But then we did hear some people say, “Hey, I’ve been in the queue.” And so I asked the DEO to look at that. And I think what happened was there was just some of these folks may not have had all the appropriate information. So they worked hard to be able to get that information. And I asked them, please, process. So they processed 166,609 new claimants over the weekend. And so that’s a huge amount, particularly for this system. And so over the weekend, you had 669,000 unique claimants and they got almost $450 million. And so I would just tell people, check the bank account, as today goes on, there’s a whole bunch of money going out with direct deposits and that’s appropriate.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (33:49)
We also extended the waiver for doing the two week re-certification till the end of the month. And we did that partially because even in phase one, it’s not like the economy’s a hundred percent back, but then two, we really want to use the system to process as many payments as possible. And if you have 500,000 people going on just to do that, when we know they’re probably still unemployed, it’s probably better to waive that for the time being further, waive it and really focusing on the processing. And so I think that to pay out almost 450 million in one weekend, I think there is much better progress. I mean, compared to where we were six weeks ago, when the system was basically dead. I think that that’s the type of progress I want to see. I realize it’s not a hundred percent, but I think that we’ve come a long way.
Speaker 3: (34:44)
One more question on it, so people are still, as of this morning, having trouble logging onto the website. You said, “Call, if you need help, if you suspect that there’s an issue with your account.” They cannot reach people over the phone or they’re getting-
Governor Ron DeSantis: (34:58)
So the system this Sunday for the weekend was the interface was removed. So you could still submit over PEGA and the application gets processed, but it was taken down, but that was by design so that the system could be used for the processing, just because at the end of the day, this is what happens is you’ll have people go on, they’ll open up an application, leave it open, someone else. And so you have hundreds and hundreds of thousands, it weighs on the system. So that was why they’ve done that this weekend. And now you can still apply via PEGA. I’ll look into the phone and we’ve got a huge number of people now doing the phone. I’ll get the call volume and see what wait times are be, but they had done a much better job recently. So if it’s not a hundred percent where it needs to be, I’ll definitely take a look and have them amp up of that.
Speaker 4: (35:48)
As of this morning. Fox 40 [inaudible 00:35:55] with Fox 40, sorry. As of this morning, the unemployment where the new projection of unemployment claim is at 32 and a half percent for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
Speaker 4: (36:03)
They’re advising people to reapply, if that happens, for federal benefits. Why aren’t they just being considered for those federal CARES act benefits on the initial application?
Governor Ron DeSantis: (36:13)
So just so people know in a normal situation, the majority of people who apply for unemployment, don’t qualify. Now, here we do have, I think clearly a majority 60 some percent, maybe, that if you don’t … So say you’re like a gig employee, you would not qualify under Florida law. That’s just the way it goes, but you would qualify under CARES act. So you should get pushed for the $600 automatically. Now, if you don’t qualify for either, then there’s this PUA, which is kind of pandemic relief for people, not tied to them necessarily having lost a job. And that the money was only recently given to the states. So that’s in the process of being pushed out. And so I’m going to ask DEO to put out some more information on that so people have it, but that would be something if you don’t qualify for unemployment, but you still need some relief, that is what that CARES act money is for.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (37:16)
Now, what I think one of the things that we’ve seen with some … So first of all, some of the applications that people have done, employers have contested and said, people had left the job and they were not fired. And then there’s others where we’ve not found social security number. So I would just tell people, if you’re applying, just make sure you put a social security. Because if you don’t have the social security number, there’s no way the application can be verified. It’s amazing because the federal supplement to this is, is significant in terms of what these benefits typically would pay. It’s more than you would typically do in a normal situation. So we’ve got people applying from foreign countries who’ve never even been to Florida. We’ve got people applying from other states who’ve never, that we can tell, have ever even worked in Florida. So there’s just a lot of things that you have to go through in terms of fraud detection. So if you have that social security number, then it makes it a lot easier. One of the things I had the DEO folks do this weekend was to make sure that they were more quickly processing people in terms of making a monetary determination that had been holding some people up. I said, “You’ve got to do it quicker.” And they did do it quicker and we’re able to push through a lot of folks. So we’re looking at now, I mean, we’re going to be close to $2 billion, I think, as we continue to process over the weekend. And the bulk of that is probably in the last four weeks, once the system got a little bit better,
Speaker 7: (38:53)
[crosstalk 00:38:53] question about modeling. The division of Emergency Management said that one of the models they’re looking at, [inaudible 00:39:00]-
Governor Ron DeSantis: (39:01)
Has that been accurate so far? Have any of the models been accurate so far?
Speaker 7: (39:05)
Governor Ron DeSantis: (39:06)
So what I looked at was I didn’t look … I looked at the facts. I looked at the data we were getting in, in Florida. So for example, there would be some models that would literally come out and they would say, “The next day, Florida is going to have 4,500 people hospitalized.” And then I would look and see how many people are hospitalized. Oh, well, 1,600. I was like, “All right, are we going to have 2,900 people all of a sudden?” No. And so what you got to do is you have to look at hospitalization rates. You’ve got to look at how the new infections, the positivity rate, but then look at it with that perspective. And I think what I found on these models is they have assumptions that are totally unreasonable, but then also they have no appreciation for how individual states are dealing with this.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (39:57)
For example, how do you model Florida denying access to nursing homes and saying, “You can’t send sick patients back to a nursing home.” Versus other states that didn’t do that and actually required sick patients to go back. Is that in their model, in terms of how many people would end up … Obviously I think that that’s made a huge difference. If you look at Florida’s rates versus some of these other state’s rates. How do you model Florida moving to phase one with 64 counties and then not with, say, Miami Dade? And I’ve not seen any appreciation for any of that. And so we’re going to continue to go based off the facts, but look, these models, there was one model that was printed in newspapers that said by April 24, Florida would have 464,000 people hospitalized. Now, for those who know this business, Florida’s only got 70,000 licensed hospital beds statewide. So to have 464,000, that would mean you have 300,000 people who are ill and in need of hospitalization who would have no place to go. Yeah, we could build some field hospitals. We can’t build 300,000 beds that wouldn’t have worked.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (41:12)
So you’re really projecting massive, massive fatalities 100,000 200,000, if you really look at that. And that was something that was being printed in newspapers. What was the actual number of people hospitalized on April 24th in the state of Florida? About 2,100. So a little bit different in terms of what was projected on that. And so I think that when you go by the facts, when you actually know what’s happening on the ground, when you actually understand the diverse communities that we have, when you understand how people operate, when you understand what doctors are seeing on the ground, when you understand what hospitals are seeing on the ground, that’s how you make these decisions. But let’s just be honest, the models have not been accurate and Division of Emergency Management may do it. But I can tell you, I’ve talked with Jared multiple times about, we need to go based on facts and based off evidence and not go based off conjecture.
Morgan Reiter: (42:15)
Hi. Morgan Reiter with [inaudible 00:42:16]. Good afternoon, governor. State sales tax revenues are way down. For the month of April it’s projected to be well over a billion dollars. School districts here, across Southwest Florida, and across the state are preparing themselves for budget cuts. What can we tell them to expect when, and might you suggest tax cut as projected in the [inaudible 00:42:36]?
Governor Ron DeSantis: (42:38)
So we’re looking at … We’re looking at this. Now obviously we received money from the federal CARES act. We obviously are looking to get our economy back up on its feet, which I think will be important. And so we’re monitoring the collections. We also are looking to see what’s happening in Washington, DC. I specifically have put off accepting the budget or looking at the budget because I wanted to see how all this went. I remember we started doing 15 days to stop the spread. And that was not … That was basically … I mean, there were some restaurant limitations, bars, all that, but I mean, supposed to be 15 days and then it went into another 30. And so I think that that’s caused a lot of problems throughout the country. In Florida, I think we’ve mitigated it more because of the approach that we’ve taken.
Governor Ron DeSantis: (43:32)
So perhaps we’ll have an ability to bounce back at the same time. Some of these revenues are driven by things like tourism, and that obviously is … Has taken a hit. And that’s really not going to be about whether government says you can do it or not as much as it’s going to be about public confidence. So we’ll look at all that and see, and then once I get a sense of what’s going to happen with DC, which they are going to do something, I think, for states this week, then I’ll have to look at the budget and make those decisions at that time. But I don’t think it would … It wouldn’t have been appropriate for me to have signed a budget, knowing that we were going to have these unchartered waters, but it’s also, now that we’re in unchartered waters, I should see what are all my tools to deal with it?
Governor Ron DeSantis: (44:16)
I do think that you’re going to see an effort on behalf of the federal government to help with some of these States. And fortunately, Florida is a state that had been healthy going into this. And so whatever is done for some of these other states, if that’s done for us, that’s going to make it much better. So stay tuned on all that. Hopefully we’ll be able to figure out where we’re going to go. I don’t think we’re going to need to do a special session for the rest of this fiscal year. But I think obviously looking at next year’s budget, really going to be determined on what we’re looking at in terms of economic recovery, but then also what type of federal assistance that we get. Thank you.