Mar 19, 2020

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis March 19 Coronavirus Briefing Transcript

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RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis March 19 Coronavirus Briefing Transcript

Florida governor Ron DeSantis gave a March 19 COVID-19 update to the state. Read the transcript here.

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Ron DeSantis: (00:00)
Our case total is 360 Florida residents, 390 positive cases overall. The number of that that had been hospitalized is 90, so that’s about 23%. That’s actually a reduction in the percentage of hospitalizations than we were looking at about a week ago. Total fatalities has been eight. We’ve had 1,533 negative test results. We got 1,019 pending test results. Both Broward, if you combine Broward and Miami-Dade, again that’s pretty close to 50% of the state’s total number of cases. The vast, vast majority of counties either have zero or in single digits.

Ron DeSantis: (00:43)
We do have some good news. We’ve received little dribs and drabs from some of our swab order, so we have, I think 4,000 or 5,000 that have come in. I’m going to be going down to Broward later today to do an announcement about our drive-through testing site that the Guard is doing in conjunction with Memorial Healthcare, so getting those swabs and basically every swab we have can either be run through the local lab, one of the state labs or packaged and sent to the commercial laboratories.

Ron DeSantis: (01:16)
I think in the last week the commercial laboratories have gotten crushed, so some of those are taking longer than they had wanted. When you hear the Vice President and some of them talking about the new way to test where you can do massive volumes, that’s supposed to start on Friday. If that does, then we’ll use our labs here, but we could swab, swab, swab, send hopefully really large amounts to the private labs and then get results relatively quickly. We’re looking forward.

Ron DeSantis: (01:45)
We also have been working with Health and Human Services. We are told that there’s a shipment of swabs en route to Florida. They don’t necessarily have the best tracking system that they use, so it’ll show up hopefully on somebody’s doorstep, either the EOC or somewhere in one of the hospitals. But that should be several thousand more. Of course we’re working on getting as many as we can.

Ron DeSantis: (02:12)
We’ve distributed 2,500 testing kits and the positive/negative controls that go with that. That would be enough for 625,000 tests. Obviously you need the swabs to be able to get the sample and if we’re going to test it here, a lot of the hospitals are running a little low on reagent, but we’re in a much better place than we were a week ago and hopefully the swabs we have in order, outstanding 500,000, we’ve gotten a few thousand of that.

Ron DeSantis: (02:40)
I think what’s happening is as people saw that there was going to be a crunch on this, there’s been venture capitalists who go out and buy stuff and they can do cash immediately and then I think they’re trying to resell it at a profit. There’s a lot of things going on here with the supply and we’re trying to fight through it as best we can. We are making progress, but I would like to make a lot more hopefully in the next week or so.

Ron DeSantis: (03:07)
In terms of the session, coming into the session, I had really laid out five main areas that I was looking to make progress in. I wanted to continue number one, the progress we made on funding for our water quality and Everglades projects, which is very something Florida really needed to do. We were able to do that and secure over $600 million for those projects, which I commend the legislature for doing. Number two, I wanted to say, “Okay, you’re doing a good with funding, but we also want good policy with respect to water quality,” so we took the recommendations from my Blue-Green Algae Task Force, created a proposed bill for water quality reform and this is a major, major piece of legislation that passed, so we’re very happy about that.

Ron DeSantis: (03:55)
I wanted to make Florida one of the top states for teacher compensation in terms of the average minimum salaries. We went from the bottom 25 states to, I think we’re going to be in the top five when all is said and done with this. That’s going to be a huge difference and I’m going to commend the legislature. The way they did the salaries, I think, are probably going to be more equitable because it focuses on certain areas that have a higher cost of living. Their minimum may be 48,000, 49,000. Some of them were rurals may be lower, everyone will do better. I think it probably threaded the needle better than my initial proposal did, but thank you for that. We also wanted to do employment verification, so it’s a first time anything in that that line has come in this legislature here. I think it’s a great first step. We look forward to working on that as we go forward.

Ron DeSantis: (04:56)
Then we wanted to reform Florida’s onerous occupational licensing requirements to give people more opportunity and they did that. We consider this a very, very successful session. Now at the same time, we now are in a different world than we were just a few weeks ago and we’re going to be looking to see how Florida is able to respond to the COVID-19. Obviously health and safety are paramount, but we already see that this is going to cause economic dislocations and we want to be mindful of our fellow citizens. We’re supporting things to do here at the state level. I know both of the leaders here are supportive of doing that, particularly for folks who are losing their jobs. The federal government, I know they’re going to pass some relief, which is very, very important, but this is going to …

Ron DeSantis: (05:49)
We entered this session with unemployment going down, down, down to 2.8% and now we’re going to be exiting this on the back end of this COVID looking at a different economic picture. I think it’s one we can recover from, don’t get me wrong, but that is going to be an issue that we’ll have to address in future sessions.

Ron DeSantis: (06:09)
I just want to thank personally the Senate President and the House Speaker. I think that they have worked really well with each other. They’ve worked very well with me. They were able to manage their chambers I think very effectively. I think if you look at the two years they’ve had, I would put their productivity up against just about anybody in modern Florida history, so I want to thank them for doing that.

Ron DeSantis: (06:35)
I want to thank Bill. So before we came, I gave them some ceremonial gifts. Bill, I was able … Bill’s dad, late father, is a legendary teaching pro, he’s taught Bill a lot. His teachings are timeless, but Bill has clubs from his dad’s era and I’ve told him you need to update these things. What I did was I was able to get a putter made for him, a Senate President putter and hopefully that can be the start of a new collection for you.

Ron DeSantis: (07:06)
Then we got my friend José, we got a nice wooden baseball bat with a description for House Speaker José R. Oliva and I think it was the quote, “Slayer of the Healthcare Industrial Complex.” I’m not going to shake your hand, but I want to thank them both for not only serving Floridians well, but for being friends and great colleagues to work with. We’ve got a lot to live up to, I think, in future legislative sessions. I want to give them a chance to say a few things and we’ll take some questions.

Bill Galvano: (07:39)
Great. Great. Well as I said upstairs, it was a tremendously productive session and again, that success goes to the working relationship that I’ve had with the House Speaker and certainly with the Governor. I can tell you I’ve worked with many governors over the past, what is it, 18 years and this is the most effective, most collaborative, most partnering governor that we’ve had and Governor, I think the success that we’ve had together bears that out.

Bill Galvano: (08:14)
Again Speaker, thank you for your work and it’s going to take you all a while to go through and see all of the things that we are able to accomplish, not just this session, the last two years for the people of Florida.

José Oliva: (08:27)
Thank you as well, Governor. I think that possibly only Jeb Bush can be compared to this governor and his effectiveness in just two years. His engagement in all forms of policy, his commitment to his principles and what he believes in has really been refreshing to be able to work with. I don’t think that we could have done any better. I know that I could not have done better than having the Senate President that we had and having this governor. I’m very proud to have been able to have worked with him and I’m very proud knowing that now once we go away, that Florida remains in good hands. It’s unfortunate that my last memory of him will be him leaving me hanging just a second ago, but besides that, we’re good. Thank you, Governor.

Ron DeSantis: (09:09)
Great. Take some questions.

Speaker 4: (09:11)
Will 3.8 billion, Governor, be enough in reserves to get Florida through this crisis and will you foresee a special session?

Ron DeSantis: (09:18)
I think we just have to see, I mean, there’s so much unknown about this, so we’re going to go forward. I mean, I’ve said so many times that we were rip roaring along here. There’s going to be Florida businesses that are going to take it on the chin because we’re so sensitive to things like tourism. But once this passes and it will pass, I think we will be able to pick back up and start going. It’s unknowable in terms of how that will work out. But I think that the underlying strength that we brought into this will serve us well when we come on the other side of this.

Speaker 5: (09:52)
Governor, the Senate President has said, I mean, you actually you can correct me if I’m wrong, that there’s a distinct possibility that there could be a special session to work on a gaming overhaul of the Seminole Compact. I just want to get your thoughts on that. I know that you were involved in these talks as well.

Ron DeSantis: (10:07)
I mean, I think it’s definitely possible. I spoke with the Chairman of the Seminole Tribe today, mostly about the health issues that we’re dealing with and as you know, I mean, they’re are separate sovereign. When I did the bars and all that stuff, that does not really apply to them. They can do what they want, but they have ceased their bars, they have imposed social distancing and they basically reiterated a commitment to doing what … They have much more limited operations throughout all this, but they said they are going to put health first. I appreciated that.

Ron DeSantis: (10:43)
Then they did indicate that they would like, once this, all this settles down to discuss some of these issues. I mean, I’m all ears for that. I think we can get something done. I know Bill’s worked hard on it and it’ll be a good thing just to have some certainty on that and some stability going forward.

Speaker 6: (11:00)
Governor, we had a very light veto touch last year with Florida tax [lodges 00:11:05] suggesting vetoes upwards of 500 or 600 billion to offset potential revenue cuts. What are your thoughts along that line?

Ron DeSantis: (11:15)
Of course, I mean, I think that when you’re looking at vetoes, there’s some things that just shouldn’t be funded and that’s an easy decision. There’s other things that aren’t the worst idea. Maybe it’ll do some good, but then you say, “Okay, maybe I prefer some of the other stuff.” Then there’s other things that you really like, but in a different budget situation, then you may have to take a pass on. We’re going to look at it and, but I think it’s safe to say that the vetoes are just simply going to be different today than they would have been had this budget come out two months ago. I mean, I don’t see any way around that, but we’re already looking at different ways that we can do to add stability.

Ron DeSantis: (11:56)
One of the positive opportunities with this, and it’s not worth the problems, economic problems, but is the interest rates. We’re working aggressively, see what can be refinanced and see what can we can save money on. Then there’s also some other things that we’ll look at. We have tools at our disposal to be able to meet the challenges and we’ll just see how it looks when we get on the other side of that.

Speaker 7: (12:20)
[crosstalk 00:12:20] at risk right now, teacher pay at risk?

Ron DeSantis: (12:23)
I don’t think so because I think that if you look at the different things that are out there, I can find you probably a lot of money. If you ask the average Floridian, “Trim this or trim the teachers,” they would say, “Trim this.” “Trim this or trim environment?” They probably say, “Trim this.” I think that we’re going to be good, but obviously if this hadn’t happened, we would have been smooth sailing and would have been looking to be able to do even more next time. So, yes sir?

Speaker 8: (12:54)
We have until Monday, I believe, to make two Florida Supreme Court decisions. Have you been able to interview all the nominees with everything that’s been going on and has this whole situation disrupted that process?

Ron DeSantis: (13:05)
I have been able to do a lot of different things like interviews and stuff. I have not had time to really read all the opinions in the way that I think I need to or the writing samples. I will most likely delay under the state of emergency, that deadline, probably push it back to May 1st. I think there’s some great candidates, I’m not saying you could really even go wrong, but I don’t think my time is very well spent right now, the court is functioning fine, for me to be taking my eye off the ball of the stuff that everyone’s so concerned about to be reading some of these opinions. I think that can happen in due time and then we’ll be able to make those selections. We will not be making the selections by Monday. I just don’t see it as being practical given all the things we’re dealing with as a state.

Speaker 9: (13:51)
Governor, you talked about the impact out of Coronavirus on the economy and the outside’s impact on Florida which relies on tourism a lot and there are a lot of people who are losing jobs. Some municipalities like Miami have put a moratorium on evictions, can you talk a little bit about if that’s something the state would consider statewide?

Ron DeSantis: (14:06)
Yeah, I would. I need to see what my authority would be, how it would work. I think that shutting people’s power off, which I think most of the utilities have said it’s not going to happen. We need to cease that. Now’s the time that if we’re telling somebody that if you’re sick don’t go into work and then they stay home and then their business, something happens with their business and they get laid off and then they can’t make the rent payment. I mean, those are extraordinary circumstances. I would be supportive of figuring out what I can do. We are going to look. We’re also going to look to turn on through FEMA, there’s some emergency unemployment triggers. I’ve been talking with Jared Moskowitz about that. We’re going to be seeking that and I’ll probably be submitting something on that very soon.

Ron DeSantis: (14:56)
Bottom line is we have various tools at the disposal to help those who’ve been displaced and we want to use them. I’m also going to look into, Florida has, I think generally speaking, justifiable restrictions on getting unemployment assistance. In other words, you have to be show you’re looking for work and do some of these things and that’s just a way so that we want people to work rather than be on this. In this case, I think it’s such a dislocation that I think I can probably waive some of that, but we’re going to be looking into seeing what I can waive to be able to get people cash in their hands who’ve been dislocated from this. I said yesterday, we’re expanding the call center for the Department of Emergency, or excuse me, to Economic Opportunity.

Ron DeSantis: (15:43)
It’s interesting as you go through these budgets and stuff, I remember bringing in Lawson, he’s going through his different line items showing where he could save money and the unemployment part was like the place, in terms of like the staff, because no one, I mean, it was under 4% and then under 3.5%, then even under 3%. It was like there was just no business in doing unemployment compensation.

Ron DeSantis: (16:05)
Now we’re in a different situation. I’ve ordered Ken, I’ve directed him to beef that up and I think that they will, and hopefully with the round three in the federal, there’ll be even more for the small businesses. We have the $50 million bridge loans. You have the SBA. But I think if they can do even more. You hate to see someone go out of business because of some external event that had nothing to do with any decisions that they made. Keeping some of these businesses solvent for at least the short-term that may make the difference about whether we can bounce back quicker or whether this would be more of a prolonged economic struggle.

Speaker 10: (16:41)
One more question.

Ron DeSantis: (16:44)
Go ahead.

Sarah: (16:48)
Why has the number of deaths been removed from the dashboard? I mean, it seems like the dashboard is becoming less transparent. Can you address that?

Ron DeSantis: (16:55)
I did not know that that was the case. I’ll ask them. I mean, I told them to put all the data out. I think that probably was an omission. I don’t think that that was anything that was intentional. We obviously want to be able to inform the folks about any fatalities that we have. I do think it’s important to let people know. Much has been said about how this virus is particularly detrimental to people who are elderly or have underlying medical conditions, immune deficiencies and the like, and that is true and it’s true that you’re much more likely to suffer a fatality if you’re older or have those conditions than if you’re younger. But I think what we’re starting to see is some of the younger folks, I mean it can knock them on their butt. I mean this is a … this can be really tough.

Ron DeSantis: (17:39)
It’s not something that you want to be very cavalier about. You should still for your own health, not want to be acquiring the virus. Obviously we’d hope you’d think of others in terms of what you’re doing, but this is not something that you can definitely say it’s not going to be a problem for you. The fatality figures I think skew older, there’s no doubt about it. But we looked at those South Korea numbers and I think the messaging had been from CDC and everyone that there wasn’t very much to worry about. I think we’re starting to get numbers out of Europe now that would suggest you could be relatively healthy in your 20s and you could wind up in the hospital. It may not totally put you out of commission for good, but it’s not something that you want to mess with. Let’s just keep that in mind and understand we’ve got a lot more to do.

Ron DeSantis: (18:28)
We’re going to be going down to Broward County. I want to thank everything everybody down there for working on this. We think that this will be hopefully a successful model that we could replicate as we get the more supplies throughout the state so that our folks will be able to test.

Ron DeSantis: (18:42)
If you look at our numbers, we’ve had the increases, but this past week was the less of an increase than the previous one was percentage-wise and the testing has increased, but we don’t know whether that’s a trend or maybe just the tests weren’t done in the right spot. I think that if we can just get more tests out there, swab people, get it done. That’s going to really help us to identify the trends and identify the problem areas beyond obviously Broward and Miami-Dade. Thank you.

Speaker 10: (19:12)
Thank you, everyone. It is, Sarah, it is on the dashboard. There’s eight deaths. It’s on the dashboard.

Speaker 11: (19:19)
Yeah it is, Sarah. [crosstalk 00:19:22]-

Sarah: (19:26)
The last time I-

Speaker 10: (19:26)
No, no, no.

Speaker 11: (19:26)
[crosstalk 00:19:24]-

Speaker 10: (19:26)
It’s a tab.

Sarah: (19:28)
It’s on the left.

Speaker 10: (19:28)
It’s on the left.

Speaker 11: (19:28)
What’s going on is [crosstalk 00:19:32]-