Apr 1, 2020
Ron DeSantis Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 1: Issues Stay-at-Home Order for All of Florida
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (00:00)
As many of you know there’s some cruise ships that are people are monitoring bearing onto southern Florida. I obviously am not in control of the port. That’s run by the counties in southern Florida, in this case Broward County and I know they’re in a consultation with the cruise ships. Clearly we are going to be willing to accept any Floridians who are on board. My understanding is that most of the passengers are foreign nationals. I think that they’re working on ways to deal with that.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (00:33)
Of course my concern is simply that we have worked so hard to make sure we have adequate hospital space in the event of a COVID-19 surge that we wouldn’t want those valuable beds to be taken because of the cruise ship. But I think that they’re working to a solution on that. I did speak with the president this morning about it. I think he would like to see a solution and I think the administration has seen a lot of the cruise ships take up a lot of resources.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (01:06)
And so we just want to get to a point where the resources can be used for the folks here, particularly in southern Florida where we have most of our problems with COVID-19 and not divert those elsewhere. But I think that there will probably be some more developments on that today.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (01:21)
Speaking of south Florida, one of the reasons we’re concerned about what could happen in terms of new people coming in, is just simply because the Broward and Miami Dade represent, I think, over half of the cases throughout the State of Florida. If you add Palm Beach, they’re at about 60% of the cases throughout the state of Florida. That’s not surprising just given the amount of international travel that goes through Miami International. Also, the amount of people that go to and from New York City, both Floridians visit New York and New Yorkers visiting south Florida.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (01:53)
So we’ve known that that was going to be an issue. And I want to commend Mayor Jimenez as well as the folks in Broward and Palm Beach. There have been sweeping measures that had been instituted down there. We’ve viewed that as a distinct part of Florida. And the measures there I think will start to show some effect we hope very soon. I have not viewed previously that as being necessarily the same solution for the rest of the state just simply because we have areas that have extremely low per capita infections.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (02:28)
At the same time I have been working with the president’s task force. The president just the other day announced they’re going to do a 30-day extension for the current guidelines. And although the guidelines don’t call for any new actions beyond what was there previously, in Florida we did the 15 days to stop the spread.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (02:50)
I think it’s clear that that represents effectively a national pause. We’ve seen some of the job losses. We’ve seen some of the economic problems that have happened as a result of this. We’re going to be in this for another 30 days, I think based off that. And that’s just the reality that we find ourselves in. And so given those circumstances and given the unique situation in Florida, I’m going to be doing an executive order today directing all Floridians to limit movements and personal interactions outside the home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (03:29)
And we have the list of essential services that is detailed by the US department of Homeland Security in its latest guidance. We also are using what has been done by Mayor Jimenez down in Miami Dade. They’d been operating on essential services now I think for a couple of weeks, and I think they really did a good job and kind of showed us the way about how to do that. Both Jared Moskowitz and Scott Rivkees will be able to add if there are some essential services that we missed. You’ll be able to add that accordingly.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (04:02)
So we’ve been working on this, devoting a lot of resources to southeast Florida. Obviously they’ve been operating under stringent measures now going on I think a couple of weeks. But this is another 30-day period. And at this point, I think even though there’s a lot of places in Florida that have very low infection rates, it makes sense to make this move now. I did consult with folks in the White House, I did speak with the president about it. He agreed with the approach of focusing on the hot spots. But at the same time he understood that this is another 30-day situation and you got to just do what makes the most sense. So that order will be coming out momentarily. It will go into effect tomorrow night at midnight. And so people will have that and they can do it.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (04:53)
As you look at some of the economic fallout that this virus is causing we need to do all we can in the State of Florida to mitigate that. One thing that we know today is that we do know that there’s going to be some federal relief. That was not necessarily the case two weeks ago. We didn’t know what was going to happen. So we’re going to be working hard to make sure our citizens are able to access that.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (05:15)
But I also want to figure out, okay, what can we do to lessen the economic damage? What can we do to help give some people more economic opportunity given the constraints we’re going to be operating under for the next 30 days? And one of the things that struck me just going around the state the last few weeks is the traffic. There’s not cars on the roads like there normally is. You look at some of the most busy thoroughfares and sometimes it’s a trickle. So I think that there’s an opportunity to take advantage of that. We have roads that if you were to do a lot of construction on would cause massive traffic in normal situations. That may not be the case now, and so I have told the Secretary of Transportation here that they need to accelerate $2.1 billion in transportation projects. You have the ability to operate a long time during the day. You can close down more lanes because the traffic isn’t what it was, and you can really start to make progress on some of these key projects.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (06:14)
So just now we are green lighting and we’re going to look to do more, the $864 million Howard Franklin Bridge project in the Tampa Bay area accelerated by almost four weeks. The widening of Southern Boulevard in Western Palm Beach County accelerated by nearly three months. Miami Dade, I395-I95 design build project, $802 million reconstructive project being done in conjunction with the local expressway authority accelerated by four weeks. And then finally the project at Sand Lake near the heavy tourist area of International Drive and Universal Boulevard and Orlando, that will be accelerated by four to six weeks. And I know for those Floridians who have been in any of those areas that would be a welcome change if we’re able to accelerate and make those infrastructure improvements. So I’m excited. It’s sad that we’re in this situation, but I’m glad we’re able to make the most of it as it goes to some of our cases.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (07:12)
We’ve done I think 63-64,000 tests. You’re going to see thousands and thousands of more come in. As I look at kind of where we are and obviously south Florida is just number one, we’ve surged a lot of resources there. We’ll continue to do it. If we can continue the testing clip. And I think with these new rapid tests, that’s going to help tremendously, once we hit about 105,000 tests, given our population, that puts us in that North Korea range where they tested one of every 200 folks. And once you get that are better, you have a really good sense of how this virus is moving in all the different communities.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (07:55)
There are some places that you test more, you get more positives, but it’s kind of the same percentage every time. 6% positive, 6%. There’s others like Miami Dade that as you test more, yeah you get more, but you also get a higher percentage testing positive. So that suggests that it’s circulating a little bit differently in that area.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (08:14)
But I think that with with the ability to test more, that’s going to be a huge priority. At this point, all the mitigation that we could do is done. There’s parts of the state where that’s going to be tough medicine but it’s uniform, it’s done. And now I think that the testing and really embracing as much as we can there is going to help provide us the information that we need to be able to make good decisions not only about how to fight the virus but how we can eventually get people back to work with the economy.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (08:45)
So there’s going to be an awful lot to do. But I would say the testing, I would say the protecting of the healthcare workforce, and I would say making sure that we have enough hospital capacity, those are going to be three really, really important things in the weeks ahead.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (08:59)
We’re also in the executive order reiterating the previous guidance to our senior citizens that if you’re 65 and older or if you’re somebody of any age that has a serious underlying medical condition, including things like diabetes, that you need to stay home and you need to avoid contact with folks who may have the virus. The health outcomes for that group are much worse if they contract the virus then than any other groups.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (09:28)
This has been something we’ve stressed from the beginning. The good news is if you look at the infections, it is skewed more younger than it did say three weeks ago. And so I think a lot of seniors are heeding the call. I think they’re doing what it takes with what they need to do to protect themselves. And ultimately if the seniors and those who have health problems, if they’re staying home, if they’re protecting themselves, then I think we’re going to be able to get through this okay.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (09:55)
So that order will come forthcoming. We’ll hopefully have some resolution on the cruise ship and we’re going to continue to be working really hard across the state, but particularly in southern Florida. And with that, I’ll take a couple of questions.
Speaker 2: (10:09)
Governor, was it the Surgeon General’s comments earlier today that shifted your thinking on a statewide stay at home order?
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (10:16)
No, because I had decided on this… When the president did the 30 day extension, to me that was, people aren’t just going to go back to work, that’s a national pause button. I had concerns about how some of that would affect different communities in Florida who have not been hit the same way. And I don’t anticipate getting hit the same way as a place like Miami Dade. But I wanted to see what their guidelines would actually say. And even the guidelines, they never actually said to do that. The surgeon general, US surgeon general never told me that’s what they were looking for.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (10:53)
But I think that given that we’re having a 30-day, I think that’s a signal from the president that look, this is what we’re going to be fighting for a month. There’s not going to be any kind of return to normalcy. People thought Easter, all that, that’s not going to happen. And then also just the fact that the place that had been hit the hardest, Miami Dade, had had these measures in place and Broward and some of the others. So southeast Florida had already been under different measures. And so the rest of the state, even though there are issues in other parts of the state, if you look at our numbers and you take out Broward, Dade and Palm Beach, the per capita infection rate is very, very low given our population.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (11:33)
But I felt that with 30 more days we should just do it, and I think that’ll probably end up being something that will make sense. We’ll see. We don’t really know how all these measures work because it’s never been tried on American society before. But I think we find ourselves in a situation where we have a national pause and we need to deal with this front and center and we’ll figure out on the back end how we get out.
Speaker 3: (12:03)
[crosstalk 00:12:03] from yesterday when you talked about the mask situation that Director Moskowitz tweeted about. Who is that hurting? Is that hurting hospitals? Is it hurting school workers? Who is that hurting?
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (12:15)
Obviously it hurts the healthcare workers, for sure. These masks, it’s unbelievable. There’ll be shipments of masks coming in and you go to get them. I’m not going to get them. But like people… they’re not there. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the market right now. I can’t tell you what exactly, but it’s not a normal situation given how much in demand those masks are.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (12:41)
This has been one of the things we fought more than anything on. We have received some masks from HHS, but most of the masks we get is we order so many of them, then we’ll get a little bit here, a little bit there and they just kind of trickle in. And as soon as we get them they go right out the door. But, man, wouldn’t it be nice if you order 2.5 million masks and they say they’re going to be there on Friday and they show up on Friday. Well then you can distribute them and the healthcare workforce will be protected.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (13:08)
It’s been good to send those to the nursing homes because if you look at those two, certainly the Broward nursing home instance, some of the staff and the workers were infected and they were sick and they shouldn’t have been allowed to go in there. Having a mask on, I think could be something that could potentially ward off infections for our most vulnerable.
Speaker 3: (13:28)
Do you think that’s criminal [crosstalk 00:13:28]?
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (13:28)
Look, I don’t want to say that it is just because I don’t have firsthand knowledge, but I can tell you it’s shady as hell. That’s for sure.
Speaker 3: (13:37)
Are you calling this a stay at home order? And if so, does it carry criminal penalties?
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (13:43)
So look we have on here the different enforcement mechanisms that we have with the other ones. But look, what I would say is if you’re engaged in essential services, if you are seeking essential services like groceries, gas, medicine, if you’re engaging in essential activity, okay. If you’re not, then you’re going to be protecting yourself, your family and your fellow Floridians better if you stick close to home.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (14:12)
I see some of these stories around the country where you kind of have like someone steps out and someone wants to get them arrested. Look, at some point you do need to just exercise good judgment. The government can’t ham fist everybody into their bedroom. That’s just not practicable. But I think that these policies are policies that will make sense. And there’s a lot of essential services that are still taking place. The health care, the finance, there’s a lot of things that really make a difference in the economy, and obviously in our fight against the virus.
Speaker 3: (14:46)
Governor, the University of Washington model is predicting that Florida will see a rapid increase in the number of deaths and hospitalization, with 100 dying daily by mid-April. 175 by May 1st. It predicts that 10,000 people will be hospitalized by mid-April and 20,000 on May 1st, and that 6,500 Floridians will die by June 1st. Do you think that these numbers could it be realistic?
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (15:15)
So look, it’s very difficult. I would just say it’s a very serious situation. When you see the president up there, if you’ve seen his demeanor the last couple of days, that’s not necessarily how he always is. I think that we all look at this and say this thing is really nasty. It’s something that’s caused a lot of harm to a lot of people. I think that we need to have all levers go.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (15:39)
Now fortunately you have seen a lot done in southern Florida and I know that as we’ve tested more, you’ve seen more numbers, but I really think between what the counties have done, what we’ve done to help them, some of the other things, I do think that you will eventually see some progress there.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (15:55)
And then I think the rest of the state, we’re obviously monitoring. And one of the things I’m concerned with is just the travel into Florida. Now obviously the New York travelers were a big deal. that was tens of thousands of people probably over a week period. And it wasn’t just southern Florida. You had a lot of flights into Orlando, some flights in the Tampa. So how that’s going to manifest itself if those folks aren’t self-isolating, I don’t know.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (16:18)
But you also have a lot of international travel still. I was reading Brazil, people are going into Orlando, Miami from Brazil, and I just think we got to get a handle on that because in Florida, we’re just going to be so sensitive that you’re going to have kids out of school, you’re going to have a lot of businesses closed. People may lose their jobs, all these different things and sacrifices. And if someone just airdrops in with more virus in these communities how is that something that is good?
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (16:44)
The one thing though that I’m optimistic about is just how do you get the society back on its feet? Remember a week or two ago, people were talking about being in lockdown for seven, eight, nine months, that is not sustainable for the society. That won’t work. But if you look at the advent of things like the rapid testing, the antibodies tests, it seems like there’s a new product that comes out almost every day now because you have every great mind in our country working on this, that I think harnessing that technology, you’re going to be able to have a society that protects against the virus but is going to allow people to do more than just work at home. And so we’re in a much better spot today on that than we were just a week ago. Yes sir.
Speaker 4: (17:28)
Governor, is your order going to require non-essential or businesses deemed non essential to close down.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (17:32)
So what it says is it’s really an order to individuals saying you can engage in essential services, essential activities, but other than that, you need to stick close to home. We’re not necessarily saying anything to a nonessential business, but under the order you just wouldn’t be able to go into some of these things and conduct business and be following the order.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (18:00)
The flip side of that though is that there are some businesses that are non-essential, which yes, they’re not going to have people be able to congregate inside their businesses. But what they can do is they can do delivery orders or things like that and maybe if they make things. So there’s a whole bunch of possibilities where some of those “non-essential” businesses will still be able to do some things, but it’s just not going to involve somebody kind of leaving the residence going in and congregating in a business. Yes ma’am.
Speaker 5: (18:30)
With the acceleration of these infrastructure projects, if they’re happening soon with the safety guidelines in place, is there any guidance for the crews?
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (18:37)
Yeah. I think the good thing about the construction stuff, they’re going to be outside. It’s been really hot and humid. I think it’s going to cool off a little bit. But as long as they’re not on top of each other, I think that there’ll be good. But yeah, DOT is very mindful of that and I think it’ll work.
Speaker 6: (18:57)
Governor, you mentioned the capacity in a couple of hospitals throughout Florida and specifically in south Florida. Do you have any projections on when that capacity will be reached and when the field hospitals set up for that event?
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (19:11)
There’ve been some projections say that they would be busted by now. We look at the numbers coming in. Obviously you see… The infection numbers are important, but if you look at the infection numbers, but look at the hospitalization rate from those. So for example, in Miami Dade County, by far the most infections of anybody, any County in Florida, their hospitalization rate’s 6%. So that’s a lot less than I think what people typically would assume to be with something like that. I think part of the infection population is skewing a little younger, not requiring hospitalization.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (19:50)
So all these things are monitored. We have the bed counts of how many beds are available. In Dade right now, total available beds is 41% of their beds, 43.4% in Broward. So these are things that you’re watching. And then you will start to see at some point indications of some type of a surge or when you do that, then what you need to do.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (20:15)
But there’s already the field hospital set up in both Miami and Fort Lauderdale. We have the Army Corps working with us to be able to do more if needed. And then we also have some other facilities we could use. Hotels have offered, we’ve tried to figure out what makes sense. One of the things that may make sense is put up, especially if it’s a nice hotel, put up some of the healthcare workers there because the fear is if you’re a nurse, you go home, you’re most likely to get infected in close contact and in closed environment. And so if you get infected by someone in your household and then you go to work and then potentially expose others that creates a lot of problems. So one thing we’ve talked about is maybe give them a safe place to stay during the real stress period.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (21:03)
So we’re looking at all that. But yeah, this is something that’s, that’s looked at every single day, and remember the whole flatten the curve was the hospital system’s got to be able to cope with it. Now we’ve done some things like stop the elective surgeries that’s helped freed up beds. And then I think just some of the behavior changes have helped freed up beds because I think people started taking the hygiene and the social distancing a few weeks ago seriously. I think you probably are going to see when the March numbers are done, a big drop in flu hospitalizations vis-a-vis last year as March time. And then that’s obviously a good thing as well.
Speaker 7: (21:40)
When you speak about the impact on the economy, I wonder if you were at all about the problems with the unemployment compensation system, the Connect system, that has turned so many people away from being able to use it. Are they in danger of not being able to get the $600 a week federal stimulus coming their way? If they don’t get on the state system, they will not.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (22:03)
It’s obviously a priority. I know they’re working very hard on it and you’re talking about a capacity for that agency that is so far beyond what they’ve been able to do. So I’m going to get a report on that sometime today, but basically my direction has been don’t spare any expense, hire who we need to hire in order to be able to get this done. Because it’s important for folks. These are not people that are losing their jobs because of anything they did. This is something that there was a shock to the system.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (22:40)
The numbers, you look at the numbers in the restaurant industry, obviously in Florida, the tourism is totally shot right now, so you’re going to see fallout there. I know Disney is paying their cast members I think at least until the middle of April. And I know a number of businesses are trying to do that as well. But the reality, financial reality is, even businesses that want to do that you can only do that for so long if you’re not operating.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (23:04)
And so we think we’re going to continue to see an increase in people that are seeking unemployment compensation. And particularly given the shock that this is and particularly given the fact that sometimes you lose a job, maybe a business goes through a hard time, you could just find another one. Well, it’s not that easy right now and it’s through no fault of their own. So that’s what we want to do.
Speaker 8: (23:27)
Can you follow up on that because the website was not working, and you have an audit that indicate it was not functioning before this crisis even happened. Why didn’t you fix the website in advance?
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (23:39)
Talk to the Department of Economic Opportunity. I’m not exactly sure what they did or not do. When I dealt with it in terms of the personnel we actually kept more personnel on than was needed at the time. But that was in a situation where we had 3% unemployment rate. So it was just a much different system. But yeah, I’m going to get a brief on that today and hopefully we can push that in the right direction. So, but I appreciate you.
Speaker 9: (24:08)
How do you define essential? And is going to be uniform for local governments to be able to enforce [crosstalk 00:24:16]?
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (24:16)
Right. So yes, you’ll see the order and what it is is the Department of Homeland Security published, I think two days ago, their thing for essential services, essential businesses. So we’re going to identify that and anything there is considered. And then we’re also going to adopt what Mayor Jimenez did in Miami Dade, because there’s some other things that you don’t think about that really pose no danger in terms of the virus, but that really do make sense.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (24:47)
One of the things that we’re very, very clear on in the executive order is pets and taking care of your pets is an essential activity. And anybody who’s selling pet food or something, that’s an essential service. There are people have been concerned about are they not going to be able to do it. No, you will be able to. We understand how important that is for folks. We understand that we need to be looking after our pets. And so that’ll be all in there.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (25:12)
And then as I mentioned, if there is a different essential service that we did not include in there, someone can ask and then we can add it or not add it as we see fit. Thank you.