WASHINGTON – During a Tuesday meeting at the White House, Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump took turns to hold up a sign: “Florida’s actions to protect residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.”
The list included suspending visitations and deploying teams to assess and support long-term care facilities. The Florida Department of Health has yet to release a detailed report on the deaths at these facilities.
“We’re offensive with the nursing homes,” DeSantis said. “Nothing is going to change on the nursing home testing. This is until this virus goes away. This is the population that is most at risk."
DeSantis’ month-long stay-at-home order expires on Thursday. He said he plans to announce Florida’s reopening plan on Wednesday.
“We still have cases. We’re still going to have cases, but this is going to continue to be an issue that we’re going to have to be attuned to,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said in Florida close to 85% of the fatalities have been people age 65 or older. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s analysis of government data, 27% of the coronavirus deaths in Florida are related to long-term care facilities.
“There were times when some of the facilities didn’t follow the regulations ... you could have a staff member that was just simply asymptomatic, and then it would spread amongst the staff,” DeSantis said, later adding, that “In a nursing home situation, if that starts getting out, man, that is a perfect environment for this virus to just start spreading. I mean, it can spread like wildfire, very quickly.”
Florida has also faced challenges with travel-related cases. DeSantis said he has been worried about Brazil and some of the hot spots which have a lot of interaction with Miami.
“You’re going to probably see the epidemic increase there as their season changes and so we could potentially be way on the other side doing well in Florida, and you could just have people come in,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said he mentioned an idea to Trump about using the Abbott labs test, so airliners check passengers before they are getting on and coming to Florida.
Trump and DeSantis also discussed a travel ban related to Brazil -- one of the world’s new hot spots. Trump said a ban would be “cutting off Brazil” and DeSantis said, “Well, not necessarily cut them off, but it’s just if you’re going to fly to Miami, then the airlines should give you the Abbott test."
Trump also said, “Brazil has pretty much of an outbreak, as you know. They also went a different way than other countries in South America ... It’s certainly a very big thing to do to Florida because you have so much business from South America."
DeSantis has also raised concerns about travelers from New York, the country’s deadliest hot spot.
“If you look at our outbreak, not a lot of it is tied to that," DeSantis said. "It’s mostly tied to New York City ... the Orlando situation is worlds different than Palm Beach and Broward and Miami-Dade.”
The Tuesday meeting at the White House included Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, Lawrence Kudlow, the White House national economic council director, and other members of Trump’s administration.
Great meeting with President @realDonaldTrump at the @WhiteHouse discussing all things #COVID19 and FL's strong efforts to protect vulnerable populations & to expand testing in an innovative way. @POTUS & his administration have provided great support for FL each step of the way. pic.twitter.com/jNkndpVg1m— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) April 28, 2020
DeSantis also said Florida’s “tailored and measured approach” to dealing with the coronavirus has saved lives and kept the number of cases “way below what anybody predicted.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 1,171 people in Florida have died of the coronavirus and 676 of those deaths were in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to the Florida Department of Health’s Tuesday morning report.
Florida’s “primary outbreak was in Miami-Dade and Broward County, and Palm Beach, so they pushed tests into that region,” Birx said during the news conference. “We did the same thing in the United States.”
More than 53,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation out of the University of Washington projects the coronavirus will kill 74,073 in the U.S. by July 15.
"The next step is going to be done thoughtfully, it’s going to be done in a measured way, and it’s going to be done with an eye to making sure that we are not pretending that this virus just doesn’t exist,” DeSantis said. “We have to make safety a priority.”
While the hospital capacity in Florida has been sufficient during the pandemic, the state government was not prepared to deal with the rising need for unemployment insurance benefits. Kudlow said the economy is in a deep contraction with rising unemployment.
“It’s a lot of hardships, a lot of difficulty,” Kudlow said. “The president’s rescue package, which really totals $9 trillion between the Treasury and the Fed, has helped to cushion that blow.”
Kudlow said the U.S. will take a hit, and reopening is necessary because people are anxious to go back to work and confidence needs to return with safety features and data-driven decisions. Kudlow also said Trump is looking into middle-class tax relief, middle-class regulatory relief, infrastructure development and insurance liability protections for small businesses.
Many States moving to SAFELY & QUICKLY reopen!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 28, 2020