Escambia, State See Record COVID Numbers
Speaking in Melbourne Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis downplayed a report by the Department of Health, showing a daily record of 173 new COVID-19 deaths in the state.
The governor spoke on a day when Florida reached a new milestone with more than 5,777 coronavirus deaths, and the total number of cases in the state rose past 389,000.
“You can have infections drop; you can have new hospital admissions drop, but you still have folks who are currently hospitalized — I mean that’s just the reality,” said the governor. “And I think the outcomes are much better today than they were as a percentage in March and April, particularly compared to other parts of the country. But it’s not going to be something that’s 100% unfortunately.”
Escambia County saw a one-day record of 10 deaths on Thursday, according to the Florida Department of Health. That brings the total to 77 COVID deaths. DOH also reports one new death in Santa Rosa County, for a total of 19.
More than 3.2 million people have been tested for the virus in Florida. Critics have pointed to the long period of time between testing and receiving the results, some have waited weeks before learning if they’re positive or negative. One page from the coronavirus testing playbook could come from the NBA – whose playoffs are being held in a “bubble” at Disney World.
The governor says the real issue is numbers.
“We’re getting about 100,000 tests a day now; these sports leagues you’re talking about will do a couple of hundred tests,” said DeSantis. “So it’s just much [different] in terms of the scale. If I only had 500 people in Florida testing, I could find a way to turn around within 24 hours, no question. But we have so many people. So the question is how do you do that?”
To hasten the process, drive-through lanes were set up for those showing COVID-19 symptoms, and perhaps “priority testing” – taking five to 10 of the 50 or so test sites operating statewide and dedicating them to those most at-risk.
“So, the people that really need to get their results quick – 65 and older, [those with] symptoms, any health care worker, first responder, people who have had a close contact [with] exposure. You can do most of that,” said the governor. “We probably have relationships now where we can get the results back quicker.”
There are reports that some Floridians have signed up for testing, ended up not taking the test, and then reporting that they tested positive. DeSantis says they’re looking into that.
“So, people [who] have information; if someone sent you a letter or a text message or an email, saying that you’ve tested positive when you actually haven’t taken the test at all, that’s definitely something we want to look at,” DeSantis said. “We’ve not been able to identify that just in the sites that the state is running with the National Guard.”
Another pitch was made for the reopening of public schools across Florida next month. The governor joins other officials on both the state and federal levels in claiming that children are the least affected by the virus, either catching or transmitting. He also announced this week that parents can choose the method of instruction for their kids.
“You should have a right to face-to-face, but if you don’t want to do it, and you’re not comfortable, then by all means choose distance learning,” the governor said. “And the same thing with the teachers. I know a lot of teachers really want to get back in; if others have health problems, or just don’t feel comfortable, let’s just make do with what we have.”
Another part of the governor’s message was that if people are suffering from non-COVID ailments, they need to seek medical attention and not stay away from hospitals because of the pandemic.
“COVID is one aspect, but if you go throughout Florida, most of the patients are not in for COVID,” said DeSantis. “They’re in for other things and those ailments are not going away. If you do have symptoms, if you have heart problems, if you have stroke symptoms, they’re here to help you. And if you go in and get that care early, you’re going to be better off than waiting.”
The double-digit increase Thursday appears to be the state catching up on COVID-19 deaths investigated by local authorities. The Department of Health's numbers have lagged behind — and sometimes contradicted — information reported by medical examiner.