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COVID Task Force Announced, as Supplies Pour Into Florida


Gov. Ron DeSantis Wednesday announced the formation of a task force, to study the post-coronavirus world in Florida. This comes as the state is getting a flood of equipment to help with treating the pandemic.

“We still don’t know everything about this coronavirus and we obviously watch the data; but it’s obviously prudent to start thinking about and planning for people getting back to work and getting society functioning in a more healthy way,” said DeSantis.

To that end, the governor said the task force will study the resurgence and reopening of the state, adding that the names of the members could be released by the end of this week.

“What I want to do is to tap into people in elected office, in business, people involved in education, and all kinds of things, to get the best ideas about what’s the most prudent way to move forward,” said DeSantis.

The topics for study include small business, agriculture, restaurants, tourism, along with conventions and recreation.

“International travel; K-12 as well as higher education,” said the governor. “There are a whole host of things that we need to be thinking about. We’re also specifically looking at testing. I think with the new technology that’s available, I think a lot of employers are going to want to have easy access to tests that can be done quickly.”

Among the questions to be answered about reopening society, says DeSantis, will involve what’s said at the federal level and by other states. But he adds that’s not the lone perspective.

“Part of this is just going to be based off of how people feel about the situation,” the governor said. “Do they think that we’ve gone in a good direction? Do they think that this is something that they think the risk is minimal? Some people may not think that; it’s not just going to be what government does.”

DeSantis’ message to those who will serve on the task force is that everything is on the table, and on the fast track.

“Time is of the essence and we want to make sure we’re getting all the best ideas as possible,” said DeSantis. “I’m also in contact with the White House’s council on the recovery and resurgence. They’ve solicited input from me; but I also would appreciate when they come out with whatever guidelines they come out with.”

Both state and federal governments, says DeSantis, have a responsibility to think about people who have been impacted financially and otherwise by COVID-19, and how they can get back on their feet.

Meantime, Florida has spent about $500 million on emergency supplies and support for the pandemic, according to Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz.

“Social distancing [and other] mitigation measures are working; we are flattening that curve,” said Moskowitz. “Florida has a good story to tell on what’s been working.”

Moskowitz spoke after Gov. DeSantis announced that the White House had earmarked one million N95 face masks for Florida. About 800,000 have already been delivered to frontline hospitals and health care workers.

States across the country have been competing against each other and the federal government, as they scramble to obtain critical medical supplies in the fight against the novel coronavirus. Moskowitz said price gouging “obviously” is also occurring as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to soar.  

“What is the value of saving a life? The answer is that it’s unlimited, right? So, if we have to make decisions to get life-saving PPE, regardless of whatever the cost is and buy it from whoever has it, we are going to do that,” said Moskowitz. 

Credit National Cancer Institute

Besides the N95s, other materiel is being delivered to Florida in larger quantities now, than when the coronavirus began showing up in Florida. 

“We are continuing the push out all sorts of different PPE,” said Moskowitz. “Five and a half million gloves; 564,000 shoe covers, 615,000 face shields, 300,000 gowns, over 100,000 containers of hand sanitizer, 47,000 pairs of goggles, and 22,00 coveralls which are basically tie-back suits.”

“Burn rates” – the speed and quantity of equipment that’s used and discarded – continue to change, says Moskowitz, as they analyze the data and decide where the PPE should be sent in their 24/7 effort.

“We run stiff all night, all day; and we’re pushing directly where it needs to go,” Moskowitz said. “Directly to the front lines, the hospitals, the nursing homes. And to our first responders – police and fire.”

Moskowitz praised Gov. DeSantis for contacting the White House and asking for 100 percent reimbursement – similar to requests sent in the aftermath of a hurricane.

“When we get a disaster declaration it starts out at 75 percent reimbursement/25 percent local cost share,” said Moskowitz. “This is not a state disaster; it’s a national disaster. And it’s a big deal to these hospitals; it’s a big deal to the cities and counties who – let’s not forget – have dealt with four years of hurricanes here.”

And with all that said, the bedrock of the fight against the virus continues to be ratcheted up statewide.

“We are working on expanding testing in a number of different areas, number of different neighborhoods,” Moskowitz said. “Even change the mode of how you get tested – whether that’s a walk-up versus a potential drive-through. We have to stay the course – remember, April 30 is the 30 days to ‘Stop the Spread.’”

Meanwhile, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is making another call for Gov. DeSantis and the state Cabinet to jointly address issues related to the pandemic.

“It’s important that we do meet so we can have these conversations and discuss it,” said Fried. “A lot of the stuff that we may not have to vote on could be one-on-one conversations at the very least, to give us up-to-date information of what is happening in our state.”

Fried has complained about a lack of communication between the statewide elected officials, requesting weekly briefings from the governor’s office since before an April 7 Cabinet meeting was canceled.