Jul 20, 2020
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis July 20 Press Conference Transcript
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a coronavirus press conference on July 20. He encouraged people who have recovered from COVID-19 to give blood. He also discussed the reopening of schools in Florida, despite backlash. Read the full transcript here.
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Governor DeSantis: (00:00)
It’s great to be in Central Florida here at OneBlood and the reason we’re here at OneBlood today is because so many Floridians have asked, “What else can I do to be helpful in the fight against COVID-19?” Obviously folks have been very diligent lately, practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings, looking out for our senior citizens, and we want you to continue to do that but there is another way that you can help, and that is for those who have been infected with COVID-19 and developed antibodies for the disease, to donate your blood and OneBlood here is really leading the charge on this.
Governor DeSantis: (00:38)
When we started this in March, there was not a lot of information about how to treat somebody that was infected with COVID-19 and required hospitalization and there has been a lot of different things along the way that have been done. There have been a lot of great inroads that have been made. One of the treatments that many physicians around the state believe is very effective is the use of convalescent plasma, so this is blood that’s donated from somebody who has cleared the COVID-19 disease. It has the antibodies, and then that is then used on a patient who is sick in the hospital, and what they find is, as well with some of the other treatments, the earlier you do it, the more effective it will be. If you wait till the end, then there’s not much that ends up making a huge difference, and so the state has had antibody testing for the general public at a number of our drive-through test sites for the last several weeks, including here at the Orange County Convention Center.
Governor DeSantis: (01:43)
So if you’re somebody that thinks that you may have been infected in the past, you can go. It is a blood draw, but you get a result in 15 minutes and we’ve also advised folks who aren’t experiencing any COVID symptoms, most of the people that go to our drive-through sites don’t have any symptoms. They think, “Well, I’m curious. Maybe I was exposed,” and then they get a PCR diagnostic test and that’s find and that’s available, but if you’re in those situations, doing an antibody test may be a better option because if you had been infected [inaudible 00:02:19] then you [inaudible 00:02:36]. We will not be defunding the police, so don’t worry about that. We’re going to be supporting our men and women in law enforcement.
Governor DeSantis: (03:04)
What you have with the convalescent plasma is an ability to be able to help folks [inaudible 00:03:10] it. So if you go into a drive-through testing site and you want to do an antibody test, you will actually be able to see if you’ve had a recent infection if you get a certain type of antibody, and then if you get the IGG antibody, you’re going to be able to be in a situation where you know that you’ve cleared the illness probably for several weeks. So it’s important to do. That opportunity is available not just at the Orange County Convention Center but also at the Jacksonville drive-through test site, at the Palm Beach, West Palm Beach ballpark site, at the Miami Beach Convention Center and at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami-Dade County, and what we’ve been seeing over the last couple weeks is we’ve been seeing an increase in prevalence of people who are testing positive for antibodies, and so if you do test positive for antibodies, you’ll get the result right there. Go with OneBlood and consider giving blood so that you’re able to be in a situation where you’re helping patients. I think it’s something that’s very, very important.
Governor DeSantis: (04:13)
There is an increased demand from hospitals for convalescent plasma and we want to be able to meet that need and so one of the best things you can do if you’re somebody that has recovered from COVID-19 is to donate blood. Your plasma will be able to be used to help other patients and the success has been promising. I think if you look at a hospitalized patient now given treatment early, they’re doing better than patients were doing in March and April when the pandemic really first hit.
Governor DeSantis: (04:48)
Also important to note, this is just one way that we’re able to help folks who need treatment. The other thing that a lot of the physicians have asked for and have been using is the prescription drug remdesivir. This is something that had been controlled basically with the federal government initially sending it to the health departments, and then sending it directly to hospitals. When hospitals started running low on it, they asked me for help and we were able to do that and we were able to expedite a shipment two weeks ago, and then we expedited another shipment that’s arriving in hospitals today which is important. Remdesivir is similar, and they actually use it in conjunction with convalescent plasma. It’s a five day, five-six day regimen. You go through and if you do it early the physicians believe that there has been a really good sense of support. So it’s important to understand we’ve really moved the ball on getting remdesivir into the hospitals. Folks can get the convalescent plasma and then also have the opportunity to do that as well.
Governor DeSantis: (05:53)
Also important to note that COVID-19, while it’s obviously an important issue, there are a lot of other health issues out there. If you need healthcare, particularly for things like heart and stroke, what we don’t want to see is people deferring that. Go in, the hospitals are safe. There’s capacity. Right now there’s people in intensive care for things other than COVID who did not seek attention when they needed to and their condition worsened and now it’s a tougher fight. So if you’re somebody out there that’s experiencing those symptoms, do not, do not, shirk from going in to get the medical attention that you need and statewide, we have 25% of the hospital beds are available statewide and almost 20% of the ICU beds are available. Here in Orange County nearly 26% of adult hospital beds are available and nearly 22% of ICU beds remain available and so the capacity is there, the COVID patients represent a larger percentage in the Census than they did a month or a month and a half ago, but we do have the capacity and the state has obviously helped with some of the folks who are contract nurses and some of the other medical professionals. So we really appreciate that.
Governor DeSantis: (07:10)
I want to thank the folks at OneBlood for their support. We have a lot of folks who are working really, really hard on this to be able to help patients, to be able to generate better outcomes. This is a great way for members of the public to be able to do it and remember, you don’t have to have tested positive in a diagnostic test. There are people that had this with no symptoms a month or two ago, maybe two, three months ago, who will have antibodies that can be used for this. So even if you’ve never tested positive before, you think you may have been exposed, go get an antibody test and consider giving blood. So with that I want to let the folks of OneBlood come up and say a few things and we’ll take some questions.
Thank you Governor DeSantis. On behalf of the 2,500 team members at OneBlood, I want to thank the governor for being here today and helping us raise awareness for the unprecedented need for convalescent plasma. Since the early days of the pandemic, OneBlood has been working very, very closely with the governor’s office, Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, and the Florida Department of Health. As coronavirus’ cases surge, the need for convalescent plasma is reaching extraordinary levels. One Blood is currently experiencing over a 500% increase in demand for hospital orders for COVID-19 convalescent plasma, and we’re urging people who have recovered from the coronavirus to step forward and donate their plasma. They are urgently needed.
The surge in the number of people being diagnosed with coronavirus is coupled with the fact that hospitals are providing the convalescent plasma earlier in their treatment which is driving demand to new heights. It’s all hands on deck at OneBlood. As quickly as donations come in, we process, we test, and we distribute them and get them out the door. Because the demand is currently unprecedented. OneBlood is collecting convalescent plasma seven days a week and we are processing and testing 24 hours a day. But it’s a revolving door. As quickly as the plasma comes in, it goes back out because that is the importance of the need at this time. You must register at OneBlood.org to donate convalescent plasma. You can’t walk into a donor center and donate without registering first and qualifying. Once again, that’s OneBlood.org. Plasma can be donated every 28 days, so since there’s such a strong ongoing need for convalescent plasma, please go to OneBlood.org if you qualify and make donation a habit. OneBlood was one of the first blood centers in the country to start collecting and distributing convalescent plasma, so once again, we are here to do our part to support the critically ill. We’ve distributed thousands of units to date. Well I hope they never need convalescent plasma. I can tell you. We’ve distributed thousands of units to date and there’s no end in site.
Right now, I’d like to introduce our chief medical director, Dr. Rita Reik. Thank you very much.
Dr. Rita Reik: (10:29)
Thank you governor, thank you Bud. We’ve got quite a storm outside so I’ll try to talk as loud as I can. I’d like to just from a medical point of view tell you how important convalescent plasma is. This is a treatment that has been around actually for almost a century but it has only recently been approved by the FDA as an experimental therapy for COVID-19 and it is experimental. We’re still doing studies on it. We’re still learning as we go, but the important thing to know is that people who have recovered from COVID and are now healthy and have antibodies circulating can actually help save a life and improve an outcome for a person who is fighting the disease. In other words, the antibodies from a COVID-19 convalescent plasma donor can boost the immune system of somebody very sick in the ICU, or even someone that’s just had a massive exposure. We’ve been using it since the outbreak of the epidemic and we’re finding that we have very positive results from it. They’re not published yet, the analyses are still being done, but we’re very encouraged by what we see.
Dr. Rita Reik: (11:39)
So what we’re really hoping to do now is use it earlier and use it more often than we had been and we are encountering an extraordinary rapid increase in orders for this product now, CCP as you’ve heard here several times. We don’t have a donor database, so we do not know where to find people who’ve had COVID-19 and we need them to come forth voluntarily and register on our website at OneBlood.org in order to make themselves available to help save a person who is battling COVID-19. So please if you know of anyone or you happen to be someone that had COVID-19 and you’re now healthy, please go to OneBlood.org and register. The need right now is quite urgent. So thank you. Thank you governor.
Governor DeSantis: (12:30)
All right. Well thanks so much. We really appreciate all OneBlood is doing. It’s very, very important. This is a great way for Floridians to be able to help their fellow Floridians and I think we’re going to get a good response out of this. I know folks have been doing it, but remember, if you are going through our drive through sites with an antibody test, you will get a result that day, 15 minutes. Consider going immediately to donate blood because you can really help folks.
Governor DeSantis: (12:57)
Also want to just … Before I take some questions, just make a couple comments on some of the upcoming events, particularly the school year. Our guiding principles have been number one that ultimately parents need to be free to choose the best environment for their student, for their kids, and that means if they prefer distance learning because they’re not comfortable with having kids in school, then that’s their decision as a parent. If people want a hybrid, then they can opt for a hybrid and obviously those parents that believe kids need to be in school, we want to provide them an option to do that as well.
Governor DeSantis: (13:33)
We see the problems that have already developed with not having kids have access to the mentorship and the in-person instruction. We don’t want folks to fall behind and we really, really want to focus on the best interests of our students and giving the parents the maximum amount of choices to be able to make the best decision that they can.
Governor DeSantis: (13:56)
I would also say as we think about in-person versus virtual, there are some really significant hurdles for certain classes of students when it comes to virtual learning. Students with unique abilities may just simply not be able to learn in a virtual environment at all. Some students although the Florida Department of Education did work to put out more laptops, but not all students have reliable access to the internet or a computer. Obviously for some students, school is the one place where they get access to healthy meals. It’s also school, the most common location where abuse and neglect are identified and that’s just because the folks in the schools are really looking out and then obviously the whole issue of child care will continue to be something particularly for our low income families, and so choice is paramount.
Governor DeSantis: (14:49)
I know that some of the folks here in Central Florida have submitted plans, some of the school districts, and I will say this. If you look at the trends in Central Florida, you look at Brevard and the positivity, that’s been in the single digits, you look at Seminole, it’s gotten down, Orange is trending well, Lake. Those are all very good signs, you look at the [inaudible 00:15:10] indicators in terms of ED visits, those have declined. So I anticipate that to continue and obviously as we get into the school year, I think the numbers will be even lower because folks have been doing a really good job, and so we are really looking forward to being able to give parents a choice and I think that that’s the most important thing we can do. With that, I’ll take some questions. Yes ma’am.
Lauren Cervantes: (15:33)
Governor, Laura Cervantes, WKMG News. There is a lawsuit that is filed by a parent and a pregnant teacher calling for a freeze on the reopening of schools. Whether or not you’ve seen the specifics what would you say –
Governor DeSantis: (15:45)
Oh no, I think it’s a … Really important point. One, if a parent has a child who may have underlying conditions, of course they should be able to opt for virtual and I think if they wanted to be in there with special accommodations I think absolutely school districts need to make those accommodations. The same with employees. This is something that’s been in our guidelines from the very beginning, regardless of employer. If you have as a business owner or here as a school district and obviously the state has followed this too with our employees, if you have somebody that may have an underlying health issue, they absolutely need to be given the option. Maybe they teach or work virtually, maybe they take a sabbatical, but those folks who are higher risk, you absolutely need to have accommodations for that without question.
Governor DeSantis: (16:30)
I haven’t seen it but I think anyone who, if there is an adult or an instructor who is concerned from a health perspective, I think accommodations need to be made absolutely.
Lauren Cervantes: (16:41)
Should a teacher really have to take a sabbatical just because she is pregnant?
Governor DeSantis: (16:45)
No no, you shouldn’t have to but I’m saying if a teacher does not feel comfortable there and they want to maybe do their job distance, if that’s what’s comfortable, and I think some that maybe have more chronic conditions, not really the pregnant, if they want to basically say, “You know what? Maybe I’ll take … ” I just think they should be given as much options as possible. I mean look, these are unique circumstances. Let’s be flexible, let’s try to give parents the choices. Let’s try to do what’s best for kids, but then let’s also recognize that although I don’t think that the schoolchildren are the primary vectors of spread, any employment situation, you got to take precautions to make sure people are protected.
Speaker 5: (17:24)
Governor [inaudible 00:17:25]?
Governor DeSantis: (17:32)
Well first of all I didn’t give any executive order. That was the Department of Education. They have a board and they do different things and my view is is we’ve got to work together and I want to work with all the school districts. Obviously if you look at the epidemic throughout Florida, it’s more severe in some parts than others and I think that you should recognize that but I also think we just got to be guided by the evidence and the data and make sure that we’re putting the interests of kids first and giving parents the choices that they deserve. Yes sir.
Speaker 6: (18:02)
Governor, [inaudible 00:18:02] the state-run testing labs like the one here at the Orange County Convention Center said that they’re back on target with the testing turnaround of less than 72 hours. Is the Office of Emergency Management checking in on this –
Governor DeSantis: (18:19)
Which lab was that?
Speaker 6: (18:20)
The BioReference Lab. Is the state checking in on that and what else is the state doing to make sure that testing turnaround is –
Governor DeSantis: (18:29)
No, it’s a great question. I think people, we went into this, all the labs were promising when we went into Phase I 48 hours and we figured it would probably be 72 but what’s happened is the country is testing more than anywhere else so they have hundreds, I think it’s 700, 800,000 tests a day and the labs have gotten backed up. So the emergency management, they’re going through and they’re making changes as they see fit. What we debuted on Friday and Orange County was one of them was …
Governor DeSantis: (18:58)
See, most of the people that are testing now, and this is fine, but most of the people that are testing now don’t have symptoms. Maybe they were exposed, maybe they know a person that got it. Some of them are just curious. I mean 25% that are coming through our test sites are just curious. They don’t know that they’ve been exposed, they don’t have symptoms, they want to do it, and that’s fine too, but we do have people that have symptoms and you need to know whether you have it or not and so we started special lanes for symptomatic people, Orange County, Jacksonville, Broward and Miami and those were taken on Friday, package sent.
Governor DeSantis: (19:34)
I believe the results are going to come to the people today, so we’ll check with Emergency Management to confirm that, but the goal is is if we work with specific labs, we understand that there’s a certain class of test takers who are symptomatic, who really need to know one way or another whether they have it, that is the most important thing and it’s also just a test of a symptomatic person is going to be much more instructive. Because if it’s positive, you have symptoms, well guess what? You’re infectious. Whereas if you have no symptoms and you test positive, that could be dead virus. The RNA will be there for a while, so you may not even be infectious anymore and so that’s why those symptomatic test takers are really important. So I think that’s a good model and what we’re going to do is see how much capacity can we build in that model and if we can continue to build capacity there, then really anyone that has a symptom, we’d like them to be able to go, it gets sent out the same day, and if we can get it back within 36 hours after the lab gets it, that’s a huge deal.
Speaker 7: (20:35)
Governor, quick question. I know [inaudible 00:20:37], you talked about the data and references to the data and [inaudible 00:20:43]. Can you talk to us a little bit about questions or people who may have questions in regards to that data? Some people asking about the state excluding a weak positive but including a weak negative.
Governor DeSantis: (20:55)
No, they should not recruit either repeat, so when you do the percent positive for new cases, it’s the total number of tests minus those who have previously tested positive, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. So if you’ve tested positive, you’re trying to get out of quarantine, and you have two negatives, those are not counted. If you test positive those are not counted because that’s not really telling us about anything with the spread. So it’s a more accurate barometer because we’ve had people that have tested positive five times, six times while they’re in isolation, and so that skews it but then if you test negative twice, you’ve already had it, that’s not necessarily meaning there’s more negatives out there either. So that’s how it should be done. They should not be counting it.
Governor DeSantis: (21:38)
There are issues, so I have asked the Department of Health to follow up. I know it’s been reported about some of the labs. Traditionally they only report the positives. Now with COVID, we have instructed them to do the negatives and most of them have done it, but I think as has been pointed out there have been some labs that submitted 100% positives, and there’s some labs that are doing that. Now part of it is they want to get the positives out as quickly as possible so that people know and the negatives can get backlogged. Sometimes they dump a bunch of negatives but still, if you’re actually going to use this percent positive as a metric, you kind of got to get all the negatives there as well.
Governor DeSantis: (22:13)
The other thing I’ve asked the Department of Health to look at is there was a case here in Central Florida where somebody, I think they were in their twenties, and they were in a motorcycle accident, and that was counted as a coronavirus death and a lot of people are like how is that possible. You get hit by a car and then you’re attributing it to coronavirus and so I want them to go back and look. I think though, the reason that’s the case is because what CDC has said is anybody that tests positive, if they then die, that’s a death amongst cases, but I think the public should know to say, “Okay, if somebody commits suicide for example and then they turn up positive, should that be attributed to the coronavirus,” and for the perspective of the state’s reporting, they’re just going to keep doing it the CDC’s way but at least I think the public should know how many of those types of fatalities are because we’ve had families who have been a little frustrated that they had maybe an elderly relative who had a really chronic condition, was in hospice, and then got infected in hospice and then that was being attributed to corona when they had Alzheimer’s or some other things. So people have had questions about it.
Governor DeSantis: (23:20)
So I think that it just needs to be, “Okay, here is what the CDC is requiring. Here’s what this means,” and then, “Here are maybe some instances in which clearly it was somebody that died with rather than died because of.” Obviously most of these cases, you have respiratory distress, you’re dying because of, so I’m not diminishing that, but there are some of those cases, particularly when we start talking about things like car accidents, which I think people kind of just scratch their head an say, “Well why would that be something that was due?” I think that the reason is is because they are following CDC guidelines and I think CDC was just like, “Well, instead of us parsing this and trying to figure out why not just include it,” then maybe you can go back and parse it later. So I understand why they did it but I think sometimes people see that and they get a little frustrated and they wonder, “Okay, come on, that’s not really what should be there.”
Speaker 9: (24:12)
16 different mayors in Volusia are calling for symptomatic lanes which I know you’ve talked about before. They said they’ve served a lot of [inaudible 00:24:19] 16 different mayors in Volusia County?
Governor DeSantis: (24:22)
So they want a test site just for symptomatic?
Speaker 9: (24:26)
Symptomatic lanes, yes.
Governor DeSantis: (24:28)
Well we’re doing the symptomatic lanes here in Orlando, the Jacksonville, whatever. I think assuming that we get the test results back in a good order, this may be a model that we expand and maybe what we can do is some of the test sites be dedicated just for symptomatic and so if you’re symptomatic you know what will happen is you’ll get through much quicker because instead of having … This Orange County Convention Center, they’ve had I think up to 2,000 in a day, certainly 1,800. Now it’s gone down a little bit and I think our test sites have gone down a little bit which actually is somewhat of a good sign because I think it may mean that we’re turning a corner here, but I think it would be something that I would support if we could figure out, “Okay, which sites are going to be for symptomatic and then obviously we do want to have access for other folks as well.” Like in Miami, they got a lot of test sites down there and so to maybe dedicate one for symptomatic, maybe dedicate one here in Orange County and get quicker results. I think a lot of people would really like that. All right, one more question. Yes sir.
Speaker 10: (25:26)
[inaudible 00:25:26] the past 35 days, we’re hearing from a lot of people that they went to get tested, then for whatever reason [inaudible 00:25:31] getting tested and then are getting a few days later positive test results. Can you explain why this –
Governor DeSantis: (25:37)
I’ve explained the health to look at that because I’ve heard it too. If you can give us, if people that have told you that are willing to provide their name, we’re interested in investigating this because it’s ridiculous. Some people sign up and then for whatever reason they don’t go through with the test and then they just say you tested positive when you were not even swabbed and I know every time a test is run there is a lot of money that goes to these labs. I means it’s $100.00 a test, but for that to come back positive, when there was no specimen submitted, is problematic. So I’ve heard it enough to be concerned about it and I would just say to the public, if you’re somebody that this has happened to and you’re willing to come forward and tell us, give us the details, because I think that that needs to be corrected. I mean how can you just … If somebody’s just getting a test result without being swabbed, then what is that saying about some of the other stuff that’s going on? I also want to know which labs is that happening at? I don’t think it’s happening at every one, but if there’s one or two that it is, it’s a big, big problem.
Governor DeSantis: (26:34)
Okay, well everybody, donate your plasma. It’s very, very important. You can make a difference in people’s health and in their lives. Thank you.