Florida’s battle against coronavirus is getting a new supply headquarters downstate, for distribution of needed equipment to help grassroots health care efforts.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and senior administration officials were at the state logistics center in Orlando on Wednesday, to illustrate Florida’s preparation for what’s expected to be an increase in the number of patients with COVID-19.
“This is almost 200,000 square-feet. of climate-controlled warehouse space,” said DeSantis. “Also almost 20,000 square-feet of logistics and command-level operational offices, conference rooms, and support area.”
National Guard hurricane equipment and supplies were moved out of the facility to another location to accommodate shipments of health care items distributed statewide.
“This is going to be running 24/7; it’s been making a lot of deliveries around the state,” the governor said. “Today it’s going to be around-the-clock until we get on the other side of this. There will be employees here, non-stop. The National Guard has been great in assisting us with what we’re doing.”
State Emergency Director Jared Moskowitz says because of preparations early in the DeSantis administration, the state could expand the logistical operation by expanding the team – investing in employees and awarding logistics contracts to ensure Florida would be a national priority.
“We are starting to really turn the tide, getting around the corner on getting this PPE [personal protective equipment] in, and getting it out rolling,” said Moskowitz. “We have over 5,000 mission requests and those are being filled on an ongoing basis in conjunction with our partners at Florida Health, making sure we’re serving the most critical needs first – in hospitals, nursing homes, ALFs [assisted living facilities], and first responders.”
The state has ordered 7.8 million N-95 masks; 2 million from the federal Strategic National Stockpile to fill the gaps until manufacturers and vendors can begin meeting the order. Other stuff is also on the way.
“You’re talking gowns, and gloves and booties and TYVEK suits,” Moskowitz said. “Two thousand ventilators we’ve orders, the 5,000 ventilators we’ve asked from the federal government. In the other room we have hospital beds that are coming in; we’ve ordered 3,000 of those. We’ve ordered 150 ICU beds.”
While the need is not yet to the point all of the materiel is needed, Moskowitz says they want to make sure the need will be filled. He added that many people still think of “emergency management” in Florida in terms of hurricane prep and response.
“But all of our emergency managers in all these different counties know that we have a lot more responsibilities, and we’ve got to be thinking ahead,” said Moskowitz. “Today the Army Corps [of Engineers] is out there doing assessments for us, looking at old hospital buildings, old hospital wings trying to figure out which ones we can bring online to add bed capacity.”
Field hospitals have also been deployed to serve as a “gap measure” before the new hospital beds can be brought online.
Meanwhile, Gov. DeSantis has ordered anyone from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering Florida, and anyone who has been to the greater New York area to self-isolate for three weeks. Anyone violating that order faces a misdemeanor violation, with a $500 penalty.
“We’re working diligently across the state to be able to win this battle; this makes it more difficult when you have more people flooding in when they were given a stay-at-home/shelter-in-place order,” said DeSantis. “Dr. [Anthony] Fauci said yesterday you have a much higher chance of being infected coming out of that region, than anywhere else in the country right now.”
Along with the ongoing testing for COVID-19, DeSantis says University of Florida Health is beginning a research project – with more random testing -- to see just how widely dispersed this virus may be.
“Nobody really knows whether people can acquire the virus and really not even know it; and then pass it on to other people,” the governor said. “So how many people out there who get it are just without symptoms, and if they can do that are they contagious at that point?”
Currently, the state is able to process 750 tests a day and according to DeSantis, about 90% are coming back negative.
“People are antsy, and this is an invisible enemy, and there’s not a lot we know about it,” said DeSantis. “If someone has symptoms – particularly those who are 65 and older who have a serious underlying medical condition – they want to know. So this is an easy way for people to have access to a test; it’s good for their peace of mind to be able to see that.”
The governor also stood by his position — again — that a statewide shutdown to protect against the coronavirus isn’t necessary.