Jul 17, 2020

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis July 17 COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript

Ron DeSantis Press Conference July 17
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis July 17 COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a coronavirus press conference on July 17. DeSantis said school reopening decisions shouldn’t be based on fear, and, “we can figure out how to get this done.” Read the full news briefing speech here.

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Governor Ron DeSantis: (00:03)
But I think one of the things that’s really been clear is the amount of anxiety and stress that people have felt because of some of the economic [inaudible 00:00:24] that happened here, you have folks wondering when are they going to get back to work? You’ve had people that have had loss of income. They’re worried about their kids. They’re worried about their families, and that exerts … It’s not just an economic toll, which is obviously very important, because we want people to do well, but it really does [inaudible 00:00:44] folk’s mental wellbeing. The stress really mounts, and it’s a very difficult situation.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (00:51)
So we’re sensitive to all those other impacts. I mean, there’s a lot of talk about this test result or that. It’s obviously important, but there are a whole host of people out there who won’t be infected, haven’t been infected, may not even know anyone infected, but are nevertheless profoundly impacted by what is happening with the pandemic.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (01:13)
One of the things that I thought was a good use of some of the CARES Act money that we had was to serve needs of some of our low income residents, folks who may have fallen on hard times, and we wanted to dedicate, really, a historic amount of money from our CARES Act dollars to affordable housing. So several weeks ago, I announced I’d dedicate 250 million of the CARES Act funds towards affordable housing assistance, 120 million for short-term rental assistance for tenants and properties within the Florida Housing Finance Corporation’s portfolio, 120 million to counties to provide rental and mortgage assistance, and 10 million for special needs, homelessness, housing, and administrative expenses related to the program.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (02:01)
Today I’m proud to announce that the Florida Housing Finance Corp has just approved $75 million to distribute to counties for rental and mortgage assistance, the first distribution to counties of 120 million rental and mortgage assistance program. Obviously, there’ll be more to come. Of that 75 million, I’m pleased to say that Orange County will receive $7.26 million, which is one of the highest in the state. Seminole County will receive 1.1 million, and Osceola will receive 2. 5 million.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (02:32)
Hundreds of thousands of Floridians who may have already had difficulty making ends meet are now suffering even more, losing a job, not being able to find a job, having to figure out how to pay for childcare while schools are in distance learning. This has been a profound disruption to people’s lives, and we have a responsibility to help meet needs in this regard.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (02:56)
The disruption has been particularly hard here in Central Florida. If you look at the unemployment numbers that were out today, I think the state was at 10.7. You have some parts of the state, obviously, that are less than that. Central Florida was more than that. Obviously, there’s a lot of industries that were very sensitive to the fallout with the coronavirus pandemic. So I think, certainly here in Central Florida, this is going to serve a really significant need.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (03:24)
So this $250 million statewide program with CARES Act money for rental and housing relief we believe can tend to and address at least some of that uncertainty, economic anxiety, and general stress that so many of our residents have felt over these many months. So I appreciate being able to do it here in Central Florida. We have a couple special guests here who going to say a few things. I know we have the mayor here. I know he’s working his tail off, but I know that this is going to be good for his county. Then we’ll hear from some affordable housing view on just how important this is. So Mayor.

Mayor: (04:14)
Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying thank you to Governor DeSantis for coming here to Orange County, and also let me welcome Ms. Jaimie Ross here from the Florida Housing Coalition. She’s been a staunch advocate for those who are underserved with housing throughout Florida now for decades.

Mayor: (04:33)
Let me also say, Governor, thank you for selecting Orange County to receive $7.26 million from the CARES Act funding that the state received. We believe that it will go a long way within this community. I heard you allude to the stress that it has caused for our working families here in the state of Florida. It certainly has caused some significant challenges for those here within this community. Our unemployment rate pre-COVID was about 3.3%, and it soared to 13.3%.

Mayor: (05:11)
So what I know is that that put a lot of pressure on families to be able to take care of their loved ones and to have adequate funding to pay for housing. So these funds will go a long way. Here in Orange County, we believe that this funding will enhance our existing family assistance programs and complement the activities being funded by the CARES Act dollars already received by the county. This includes short-term rental assistance and social services for families affected by the pandemic.

Mayor: (05:50)
Overall, Orange County has made a substantial commitment to create more affordable housing units for our community, such as this facility that you see today. This has been one of the projects that Orange County has partnered with here at Wellington. This past March, the Board of County Commissioners established a local affordable housing trust fund, and that fund was recommended by the Housing for All Taskforce that we put in place here in Orange County. The trust fund’s initial budget of $10 million will help us better leverage state and federal dollars and expand affordable housing options for our residents here throughout Orange County.

Mayor: (06:32)
Again, I say thank you to the tireless advocates who are here for what they do every day to make certain that, from a public-facing perspective, we are taking care of our families here in Orange County. So Governor, we will use those funds to honor that commitment. Thank you very much.

Bryan Nelson: (06:55)
Thank you. Bryan Nelson, Mayor of the City of Apopka. Thank you, Governor, for coming down to Central Florida and particularly my town of Apopka. We appreciate what you’re doing throughout the state. The $7 million obviously will help with the short term. As the numbers come back and our theme parks start filling back up, the unemployment rate should decrease, which makes it a lot easier on our folks here. But for now, that’s a great stop gap.

Bryan Nelson: (07:19)
But as we look forward, I think the partnership between the state and the county, we here in the Apopka area have really done a lot here in the last several years with this Wellington and Brixton Landings and the affordable housing complex put on by … Oh, I can’t think of it.

Jaimie Ross: (07:39)
The Habitat?

Bryan Nelson: (07:40)
Habitat for Humanity. We’ve got two, Orlando and Habitat of Apopka. Hannibal Square is looking to build another project in Apopka. So as we look long-term, that’s what we’re looking for is, how do we engage our community, get them into something that’s affordable, and get them off the streets, get them out of unsafe housing, and get them into a house that they’ll be proud of and that they will live their life out in?

Bryan Nelson: (08:05)
So thanks again to the governor for doing this. We appreciate the short-term help, and as we move forward, we want to make sure that, long-term, we’ve got great solutions for our members here in the Apopka community. Thank you.

Jaimie Ross: (08:20)
Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Jaimie Ross. I’m the CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition, a statewide nonprofit that provides training and technical assistance on everything affordable housing, from ending homelessness to first-time home ownership.

Jaimie Ross: (08:34)
I’m really honored to be here today on behalf of the Sadowski Coalition. The Sadowski Coalition is actually 32 statewide organizations. So my comments are on behalf of Sadowski Coalition, and my comments are that we cannot say enough good about Governor DeSantis and his support for affordable housing. As soon as he came into office, he put in his budget full appropriation for the state and local housing trust funds. Then he did it again in the second year, and now he’s taken $250 million out of the CARES fund and directed it to help people with housing between now and the end of the year.

Jaimie Ross: (09:25)
So we have also a great gratitude in the way it’s being done with the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, because the money is being administered through the SHIP programs. That’s very important, because our SHIP administrators immediately launched into action as soon as the governor declared the disaster, and they reprogrammed their SHIP monies to use it the way the CARES money can be used for rental assistance, for mortgage foreclosure prevention, and now with the announcement that the governor’s made today, they’ll be able to use federal money for that and use their SHIP money for the SHIP activities, which are so critical and which we will get back to again in the beginning of January of 2021. I just cannot express enough how grateful we are to have a governor who really is a housing champion. Thank you.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (10:31)
[inaudible 00:10:32]. Mayor, this is for you. Seven million big ones right there.

Photographer: (10:45)
Can we get thumbs up?

Mayor: (10:45)
All right. Thank you. You can come back anytime.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (10:56)
Well, we look forward to that unemployment rate getting back where we want it, and we really view Central Florida as such an important engine for-

Governor Ron DeSantis: (11:03)
We really view central Florida as such an important engine for the state, and I want to thank everyone for coming and thanks for all that they’ve been doing to help these folks.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (11:10)
I have a number of updates in terms of the COVID-19. I’ve been working with the president and the vice president as well as other members of the administration to accelerate more of the treatment remdesivir. It’s a drug that has been used to treat people who come in with COVID-like illnesses. Most of the physicians I’ve spoken to around the state believe that it has been effective at reducing hospital stays and taking a patient who maybe would be on the verge of going to an ICU if they were left unabated and keeping them in a more stable condition. We expedited a shipment last weekend as hospitals said they were running low. They want more, which we want to help deliver on, so the White House is accelerating more remdesivir to the state of Florida.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (12:04)
We think it’s going to ship this weekend. And obviously, we’ll be working with all the hospitals. It will would go directly from the distributor to the hospitals, so the state’s not going to be involved in parceling it out. But I really want to thank the president, the vice president for understanding that this is something that’s important for people in the state of Florida, for some of our patients who’ve gone into the hospital and doing all they can to be able to accelerate that. I also spoke with the head of the company who makes it, Gilead, and they are working to continue to crank out these medications, and so we appreciate them for doing that.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (12:42)
I also want to just make a point about hospital capacity. You’ll see these different headlines saying there’s no capacity here or there. Just to understand, we have 21% of the beds statewide are available. That’s a greater percentage than was available in early March before the pandemic took off. I mean, typically hospitals run at 90% or 88, 90%. That’s how they stay in business, and so now we have less than 80% of the beds are actually in use, so there is capacity. And particularly, I think this is important because what we saw in March and April, and part of it was the fear of the coronavirus, but I think part of it was people didn’t think that they could be seen at a hospital because there was a narrative that somehow the hospitals didn’t have capacity. That was obviously not true in Florida then. And so people that had heart or stroke, they deferred going into the ED, deferred seeking treatment. And, that was big numbers across the country. That has led to more significant conditions now.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (13:49)
I’ve spoken to physicians here in Florida and there are patients not for COVID, but they’re in ICUs who have more significant ailments as a result of deferring care, and I think you’re seeing that across the country. So, if you need care, seek care. There’s not a single hospital CEO that I’ve spoken to that said don’t send anybody here. They’re saying this is our job and we’re going to do it. They also have the ability. They have capacity.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (14:16)
One of the things that that has been an issue is just making sure you have enough personnel. The states we’ve sent hundreds of medical personnel to different parts of the state, particularly Miami-Dade County, and we’re going to continue to be supportive in that regard. Part of it is just the fact that as you go along with this, as there’s community transmission, some of the staff can get infected, and obviously that’s something that would put somebody on the sidelines potentially. So having this personnel is very important, and so we’re supportive of that. I also think the federal government’s going to be sending some teams to supplement and potentially the Department of Veterans Affairs. I spoke with the secretary the other day, so we anticipate support there. But the bottom line is we have capacity. We have the ability to care for people. And COVID, while it’s important, that’s just a fraction of the people that are in hospitals on any given day, and all those other conditions also need attention as well.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (15:16)
Our longterm care support is ongoing. Those longterm care residents, about 150,000 longterm care residents in the state of Florida, mostly in their 70s and 80s, most of them have had health problems. They represent from just that community in almost 50% of the COVID-related fatalities in the state of Florida, and so they’re the most at-risk group. We’ve obviously done a lot in terms of not letting visitation, not letting sick patients be discharged back into nursing homes, sending PPE, requiring PPE, we’ve tested all the nursing homes, and all of those things are good. We have set up now, we have even expanded number of COVID-only nursing homes so that if somebody is in the hospital and they’re contagious but they don’t need hospital level of care, they can be discharged to this COVID-only facility where there’ll be appropriately isolated. Or if they’re in their nursing home and they test positive, but they don’t need to go to the hospital, leaving them there could spread it to other people, so you have a place to be able to transfer.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (16:25)
We have over a thousand beds operational throughout the state for COVID-only nursing homes. Two sites are operational in Brevard County, one site here in Orlando, and there’s going to be another one added in Orange County next week. So by the time some of the additional beds come on and we have many beds in Southern Florida, you’re looking at probably close to 1800 beds that will be in these COVID-only facilities serving as a step up from a nursing home and a step down from the hospital. That’s a way to keep the spread from spreading in these nursing homes in longterm care facilities, which is our most vulnerable population.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (17:11)
Testing has been going through the roof and the state of Florida. I mean, you hear about the positive tests, which obviously that’s part of it, but the number of tests being conducted are unlike anything we thought we would be able to accomplish. We’ve averaged over the last seven days, over a hundred thousand tests a day. When we were in the height of March and April, we were doing between 75,000-110,000 tests a day. When we went into May with our phase one, we said, we want to accelerate testing. We want to get more testing out there, and our goal was about 30,000 a day. So now we’re doing a hundred thousand. Part of that is because of our longterm care testing, but this is an inordinate amount of testing.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (17:54)
I think what we’re seeing is the percentage of new cases that are positive has stabilized and even maybe slightly down from where it was two weeks ago, where we were pretty much 14-16%. Now we are probably more of like 12, 13%, and here in central Florida, they’re below the state average. I mean, you’ve had Orange County has been in that 10, even a little lower. Brevard has been in the single digits. They used to be 2%, then they started getting them double digits. Lake has been around that 10% mark, a little less than that. Seminole, I think, is stabilized and hopefully it will be going back down in the single digits. So we definitely we’ve seen stabilization. Even in southern Florida, we’ve seen stabilization in terms of the percentage of people who are testing positive. Obviously we want to go back to where we were in May and the beginning of June where we had a lot of places around the state that were testing three, four percent positivity. I mean, you figure one or two percent may just be false positives. If you get in there, you’re in really good shape.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (18:58)
We also are working to accelerate test results for people. These commercial labs by and large will tell you if you give them a sample, they’ll turn around in 48 hours. But I think in practice what we’ve seen there, people go through our drive-through sites and sometimes they don’t get results for seven to 10 days. So just think about even from their perspective, you just wait and wait and wait. That’s not ideal for a patient. Of course, it’s also not good for medical professionals because they don’t have an answer about whether somebody is actually infected or not, and so you assume they are if they’re in the hospital as a PUI. And so it’s just not a good situation.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (19:38)
The Department of Emergency Management has severed ties with one of the labs who was taking a week, diverting that business from our drive-through sites. The labs who pledged to do better, we’re just going to keep monitoring. But at the end of the day, if you pledge to do a certain number of turnaround, we want to see that because it’s really important that the folks who are getting tested get an answer in a decent interval. What we rolled out today along those lines, and this is happening at the Orange County Convention Center here in central Florida, it’s also happening in Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade and then in Jacksonville at the Regency mall, is for symptomatic people because remember, a lot of the people who are testing now would not have been tested in March. A lot of them may have been exposed, but they don’t necessarily have symptoms. But the people that have symptoms, obviously those are the ones that we really need the results back as quickly as possible. So for those folks who have developed the COVID symptoms, there’s going to be lanes where you can go in, utilize a self swab, send it to, we have a couple of companies who have a good track record, and the goal is to get that turned around much quicker than what we’ve been seeing in some of these other commercial labs.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (20:48)
That starts today. We’re obviously going to monitor the data on that and really hold people accountable. But I can tell you, we’ve had a lot of luck dealing with one of these companies with our longterm care testing. Typically that will get sent and we’ll get a result by the time the lab receives the specimen in under 30 hours, and so that’s a really good turnaround time. So we’re going to be looking at that because we know it’s important.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (21:12)
Also, the Department of Emergency Management has put out new retail sites at Home Depots. We have four new sites that have come online, Tallahassee, Leesburg, Jacksonville, and Oviedo, so you have two right here in central Florida at the Home Depots. Those are just out here shopping. Do you want to get tested? You can. And I know a lot of people have been taking advantage of that.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (21:35)
When you’re looking at the test numbers and the positivity and all that, it is very important to scrutinize that in terms of the age groups, because we know the coronavirus disproportionately impacts folks who are elderly, and not just 65 and older. Really, as you get into 75 and 85, that changes dramatically even there. And so when you’re seeing positive tests come from 20-year-olds, 25-year-olds, it’s important to point out-

Governor Ron DeSantis: (22:03)
… coming from 20 year olds, 25 year olds. It’s important to point out, absent a significant underlying health issue, those folks are typically asymptomatic or have mild symptoms and very few require hospitalization. And so those numbers just need context. And here’s, I think, part of what is driving the positivity. For the whole pandemic, the positivity rate for people 18 to 24, and really most of that bulk is kind of that 21, 22, is 17%. On the other hand, 65 to 84 is six and a half percent positivity. And so it’s those elderly folks, our most vulnerable, that we really need to protect. That that is the most important cohort. Obviously, we’d like to see everybody have as low of positivity as possible, but the younger folks are still driving, not only the case numbers, but really you’re helping to drive the positivity.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (22:55)
And that really brings us to, going forward, protecting our most vulnerable is the best way for us to reduce mortality and morbidity. If you look at the case fatality rate in Florida, it’s about 1.5%. The national average is about 4%. Many of the other states, particularly in the Northeast, are five, six, 7% case fatality rates. We obviously want to continue to have as low as we can.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (23:26)
And a lot of that just depends on making sure the nursing homes have support. And then our 65 and older community, which we have seen exercise a lot of care and caution throughout the whole pandemic, but our advisory from March has always been to avoid crowds and minimize close contact with individuals outside the home if you are in that 65 and up category, or if you’re somebody that does have a significant underlying condition.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (23:53)
Our longterm care residents, we’re protecting by continuing a lot of the things that we’ve done, but now we’re testing all the staff every two weeks. So that’s 200,000 people that work at over 4,000 longterm care facilities throughout the state of Florida. We’ve now had samples taken from all 200,000 over the last two weeks. This is our first week doing that after we had gone through and tested everybody over a couple month period.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (24:24)
And, unfortunately there are people who test positive. Fortunately, the rate of people positive is significantly lower than statewide. It’s been a little under 3%. when they test positive, they are isolated, then any residents who came in contact with them are obviously given an opportunity to test and they’re monitored for symptoms. So that’s an important way to keep COVID from really spreading in the most vulnerable areas.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (24:48)
And I will just end by saying this. We are seeing some positive trends in the data. If you look at Orange County and some of the Central Florida areas, they’ve seen their positivity stabilize and decline. I think it’s going to decline a lot more, but that’s where it is. Visits to emergency departments for COVID-like illnesses have declined for seven days here in the state of Florida. And that is really a leading indicator about people who are going to be admitted or not admitted to hospitals.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (25:19)
So I think that we’re in a point where the testing has been relatively stable, and we’re testing a lot, obviously. The ED visits, there’s a downward trend on that. So I think if we can keep doing the basic things that they’re doing here and other parts of the state, that’s really going to help us get through the next two weeks.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (25:41)
And so for anyone who’s in those vulnerable groups, 65 and plus, just understand some of those younger cohorts, the people in their 20s and 30s, this is circulating more significantly in those age groups than it would be in some of the other age groups. And so, as you limit your contact, keep that in mind and do the best that you can to protect yourself because we want to make sure we get through this in the best possible shape that we can with that. With that, take some more questions.

Press: (26:12)
The Orange County School Board just voted for their innovation plan.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (26:22)
Okay, I’ll do one in the back. Yes sir?

Press: (26:23)
There was [inaudible 00:26:23] report through the White House coronavirus task force saying there were hotbed states such as Florida recommending closing the bars. I know our bars are going to be closed. It also recommends, James, it says the report was given to all the governors. What is your stance after that report about Florida being a hotbed and do you have any suggestions?

Governor Ron DeSantis: (26:33)
Well obviously, I think if you look at the Sunbelt, I mean, we’ve all seen the same movement in terms of increased prevalence. I think the fact that we’re testing so much has led to case numbers that have been put out there, and I think kind of unfairly, maligning the state as being something. If some of those states like New York and New Jersey were testing 100,000 a day at their height, they would have had 40,000 or 50,000 cases a day. So I think it’s important to put that in perspective.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (27:03)
But there’s no doubt that we’ve seen from Southern California to South Carolina, including Florida, Texas, Arizona, we’ve seen an increase of spread and obviously, as I mentioned, a lot of spread with some of the younger folks. And so, with the pubs, they’ve never been open in Southern Florida. So just put that. And then, when we did the phase two, it was basically, they had to do similar to a restaurant, the limited capacity and the seating.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (27:31)
And when people follow the guidelines, we’ve never had any problems, but obviously there was an issue with a lot of noncompliance, and so that’s why they ended up doing that. In terms of the gyms. We’ve not had a lot of problems with that, and so that’s not something that I’m going to close, partially because if you look, you talk to any physician, particularly the people that are under 50, if you’re in good shape, you have a very, very low likelihood of ending up in significant condition as a result of the coronavirus.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (28:03)
I mean, the people that they’re seeing in there have overwhelmingly uncontrolled comorbidities, a lot of folks have hypertension, diabetes, are very morbidly obese. And so I think taking that option away for people to be healthy just doesn’t make sense. And we haven’t really seen that as a major vector. I only could be theoretically, anything you do, theoretically, you could do it. But I think most of the people that are going to gyms are in the low-risk groups. And I think what they’re doing is making them even less risk for the coronavirus. So I don’t think it makes sense to close it. Yes, ma’am?

Press: (28:35)
The Orange County School District just voted to put their plan forward, but what they want is some community control that if the numbers don’t back down, that they could not open those brick and mortar schools. Would you back that decision? And if you did, would you put more money into those kinds of districts for online?

Governor Ron DeSantis: (28:52)
So, what I said from the beginning is we got to work with every community as we see their circumstances, and the state is very diverse anyways. But if you look at how the epidemic has unfolded, it’s not unfolded evenly across the state. Quite frankly, I think Central Florida, as we get into next month, probably be in pretty good shape, just based on the trends I see. That’s what I hope, but obviously, they need to have the ability to make decisions, and the parents’ input’s going to be important.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (29:22)
One of my overriding principles is that parents should have options, and if they choose distance learning because they’re not comfortable in a school setting, then that’s for them. If they’re parents that really want to have some in-person instruction, I think school district should do whatever they can to provide that, particularly for our very young students.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (29:40)
I think one of the things that we’re really concerned about is some of the learning gaps that will develop in the K through five. And when you’re doing that, when you’re falling behind in reading, especially, that can have a lifetime of effects. And so for me, I look particularly at those elementary school kids, and the science on that is just overwhelming. Yes, they’re at almost zero risk, but even more than that, transmission from an elementary school to an adult is extremely rare.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (30:13)
I think generally for schools, the kids aren’t vectors. As you get into 17, 18, I think you can probably find some examples of that, but man, those primary school kids, I just, I really am concerned about having to do that. But I’ve told all the school districts, look, this is a team effort. You represent different constituencies, you have different things happening in your community. So we just need to be sensitive to that.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (30:38)
But we also need to be sensitive to the harm that will come if while, of course, giving parents the ability to opt for distance, if you shut out those parents who really believe it’s important to get some in-person instruction. Look, I think most of these folks in the schools, I think most of them want to be there because they realize how important it is. I think safety’s important, but we also need to really look at the data and let the facts drive it. I do not think that we should be swept up in fear.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (31:10)
I think there’s a lot of fear out there and obviously, that’s risk for the mill and that is stoked. But I think we just look at the situation. We can figure out how to get this done. I’m confident of that. We’ve got a lot of great, talented people working in our school system. And so, we’ll be working with them, but this is an evolving situation, and I think folks understand that.

Press: (31:37)
So that’s a yes?

Press: (31:41)
Something similar to what was done for first responders, healthcare workers, at first, would you consider a state-funded testing site just for educators and bus drivers and school administrators during the school year?

Governor Ron DeSantis: (31:55)
Of course we would, but I would also just say, what we’ve found with this testing is, there’s a limited utility in testing healthy people. We thought you test healthy people without symptoms, you identify that they’re positive, you isolate them, and that stops the spread. The problem is, is if they don’t get the results back for seven days, then are they going to isolate in the meantime, if they have no symptoms whatsoever, if you’re just randomly testing people or you’re doing a periodically?

Governor Ron DeSantis: (32:26)
We do it in the longterm care facilities, just because if that gets in there, just the chance of something happening. But just from the general public, I’m not sure how much it’s actually been affected. So, I obviously would want to offer support in any way we can, but I think that one of the things that’s problematic about it is, you can test positive 30 days after an infection. So the virus is dead, you’re not infectious, but it can pick up the RNA. And so, what? You’re going to be two weeks, not being allowed to leave your house when you’re really not even infectious. So how you do that? I …

Governor Ron DeSantis: (33:03)
Your house when you’re really not even infectious. So how you do that, I think we need to really discuss what makes the most sense. We went into mass testing and I was one of the biggest advocates for it. You know, a lot of what they’ve done in other countries is really the symptom-based testing. And it’s not clear to me that they’re worse off than doing, you know, what we’re doing. So the answer is yes, we would definitely help, but I think we have to, as we get through this cycle and get on the other side of this hump, and we’ve probably got to discuss what makes the most sense with testing. Because one of the things I fear is you go get tested. You know, it’s your turn to get tested, let’s say. And you get a result back in a week and it’s negative. But then two days before you got the result back, you got infected. And so these negative results for healthy people, it is not a clean bill of health infinitum.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (33:51)
Now we are doing more and more antibody testing. And I would definitely recommend. We have a lot of first responders, healthcare workers who’ve been doing it. We opened it up to the general public at some of our sites, including Orange County Convention Center and the numbers over the last week have really gone up, which is a good sign because that means there’s more immunity built up in the population. I think today’s, the numbers from yesterday, I think 14.7% tested positive for antibodies. And I think once you get in that 15% seroprevalence, that contributes to resistance of this thing being spread. So antibody testing, I think, needs to be a part of the equation. And I just think we need to recognize the limits of what PCR testing can do.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (34:34)
The rapid tests that were developed, the problem with some of them is one, there’s just not enough to go around. And so I have money. If I could order them I would, but they’re mostly going to hospitals. But even some of the hospitals have seen some of them have not been accurate. They’ve had false positives or false negatives. And so that’s a problem. And we’ve had this one test we’re doing at this mobile RV lab. It’s a 45 minute test. But what happens is 5% are false positives. So when you test positive, they have to rerun the sample and sometimes take another sample to confirm it. So that’s not ideal because the last thing you want is for someone to think they have it when they actually don’t.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (35:13)
So there’s a whole bunch of stuff. I think we’re learning about this testing. And, but I’m definitely not one that thinks that every student has to be tested every week or anything like that. It’s just and one, I think functionally, it wouldn’t work. So I think if someone develops a symptom, a student, obviously they isolate, they stay home and you should test them immediately. And then you can do the contact tracing and that is going to be the most effective use of what we’re doing.

Speaker 1: (35:42)
[crosstalk 00:35:42] the secretary, proferens, mandate suggesting that it was a recommendation. Do you agree with that right now? And what do you think about Orange County’s plan?

Governor Ron DeSantis: (35:55)
Yeah. So why I haven’t looked at Orange County’s plan, but I think what he was trying to do is say the goal should be to get kids back in the classroom and we want people thinking along those lines. But the way it’s structured, if you actually look at the way it’s structured, it’s not exactly mandatory. I know it’s good press. It’s like the Department of Health doesn’t do this, all this other stuff. So I think what it’s doing is just focusing people on what’s this going to look like and going forward. And so, but I’ve said many times, because I just believe being in a diverse state, you have to do it. You got to be sensitive to the different communities and what they’re dealing with. But I believe Orange County could certainly offer in person given the trend that they’re on, and I think they’ll be in pretty good shape by next month. I mean, they’ve just… You know, orange County has one of the lowest case fatality rates for a county this size. I think it’s less than half a percent. Obviously, you don’t want to have any fatalities. And so anytime you see that, it’s difficult and it’s tragedy, but I tell you, you look at some of these other places around the country. Some of these counties have 10% case fatality, and I think that they’ve really done a good job here.

Speaker 2: (37:07)
[crosstalk 00:37:07] Are you saying there’d be no penalties for a school district that doesn’t open in verse one?

Governor Ron DeSantis: (37:12)
But my goal is not to penalize people. My goal is to give our kids opportunity and recognize that when we talk about the coronavirus it’s very important. But in terms of everything, all the effects of it, there’s been so many effects on people who probably don’t even know anyone that’s ever been affected. And particularly our kids. As good as Florida’s system is compared to other states in the country, the distance learning is not the same. There is an academic gap that has developed. And look, we were in a very difficult situation in March. People didn’t know whether kids were big vectors. I think it was pretty obvious that the kids were lower risk, but there was still data was coming in on that.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (38:02)
Now we have more information. And my thing is just for parents who have any type of misgivings, and obviously I think it’d be so counterproductive to tell them you have to go in. I mean, it wouldn’t even work. It’s not the right thing to do. They have the ability to opt. But I also think we do have to be sensitive to parents who really believe that the school experience is important for their kids. And so we’ve got to do whatever we can to kind of meet that. But I think that’s just got to be done because it’s the right thing to do you.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (38:32)
I mean, to get into a tit for tat and to do that in the midst of a crisis, that’s not what I’m looking to do. I mean, I want to work collaboratively with people and I just want opportunities for our kids. I do not want people falling behind. I’m concerned about what will happen. I’m concerned about just being able to be a part of the school community, having that, the pride of kids. I’m concerned about not having activities, being in the band, doing theater, playing sports. We’re out looking at our athletes. You know, they need to be out there. So there’s all these different things. But I think that to be in a situation where you’re trying to penalize or not is probably not the way to go.

Speaker 3: (39:17)
[crosstalk 00:39:17] Last question.

Speaker 4: (39:18)
Governor, we have 5,000 fatalities in the state. Do you take responsibility for any of those deaths?

Governor Ron DeSantis: (39:24)
I think every time you have fatalities for any reason, I think it’s a tragedy. And we certainly have seen fatalities in Florida. Particularly, recently we’ve seen fatalities particularly in places down in Miami-Dade. And it’s a terrible, terrible thing. I also think though that because of our efforts, if you compare how we handle our most vulnerable population with our longterm care facilities, by limiting access immediately, by having PPE. We were the only state sending massive shipments of PPE to our longterm care facilities. I dispatched the national guard to test the residents. We’ve got 4,000 facilities to test that. We’ve put in a huge effort to test the staff so that we can catch infections before they spread. And I guarantee you, had we not done that, we would have had thousands of more. Our most vulnerable would have passed away. And had we done policies like we’re done in some of the other states where they were forcing the nursing homes to have infectious patients, it would have been way, way worse.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (40:31)
And so I think the efforts have been targeted. I think the efforts that definitely saved lives. We’re not out of the woods obviously, and I think it’s a difficult situation. But would you rather have our case fatality rate, our deaths per million, which are lower than many of these other states, which many of them are hailed as successes just because the virus has burned out there. But I think we’ve really focused on our most vulnerable, on our senior citizens generally, but particularly those folks in our longterm care facilities.

Governor Ron DeSantis: (41:25)
Thanks guys. We’ll be back soon.

Speaker 5: (41:25)

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