DeSantis reassures public as drive-through testing ramps up

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Federally-backed drive-through testing programs underway in Broward County and Jacksonville, being beta-tested in Miami, and soon to begin in Orange County sent Gov. Ron DeSantis to Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium last Sunday to assure Floridians they should be fine, if they take precautions.

DeSantis appeared at the stadium parking lot with Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez, Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz and others to offer details on how the drive-through testing would work there, to provide limited updates on the new coronavirus outbreak, and to reassure Floridians that strong commitments to personal hygiene and social distancing should keep them safe.

The Governor didn’t announce any new statewide emergency orders, bans or shutdowns. Instead, DeSantis appeared to send the message that the dramatic events, most recently the long lines of traffic queueing up at drive-through testing locations, should not alarm people.

On Sunday he continued to advise people to follow the oft-urged recommendations to stay at home, practice social distancing, and wash hands frequently. He said if people stay “in those comfort zones … then you are going to be protecting yourself.”

As of Wednesday, the latest reports from the Florida Department of Health indicated there now are 830 cases of COVID-19 in Florida, including 768 among Florida residents, and 62 with visitors who have been tested and isolated in Florida. The state also has suffered 13 deaths from the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

“Florida is seeing more reported positive cases, but some of that is to be expected, because Florida is testing a lot more people today,” DeSantis said. “But that actually helps us identify, you know, where some of these areas are, and then be able to tailor whatever measures need to be taken to try to protect folks,” he said. “I would say, that as testing has increased in places like Broward and Dade, we have seen more overall increases, but the percentage of people who have test positive have declined. And so you have, even under criteria where you have to be symptomatic, the vast, vast majority of people are testing negative for this.

“So I just want to put people at ease,” he said.

What about in a week, two weeks, a month, or two months? DeSantis challenged, putting the question to himself.

He didn’t give any prognostications.

DeSantis simply said Florida officials are working with the President’s Advisory Committee, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local governments to try to stop the spread.

Moskowitz used the occasion to chastise people for not social distancing, particularly spring break revelers.

He also cautioned that even if something is open, “it doesn’t mean you have to go to it.”

“I know young people are thinking that their spring break has been ruined, or their summer has been ruined. But to the young people out there: You could ruin somebody’s life, you could ruin a family’s life by not social distancing. This is just a spring break. It’s just a summer. The beaches will still be there,” Moskowitz said.

“If one segment of the community doesn’t do their part, it affects everybody else,” he said.

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30-plus years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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