Oval Office Washington D.C. April 28 11:35 A.M. EDT
Well, thank you very much. We're with the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, who's done a spectacular job in Florida. He enjoys very high popularity, and that's for a reason. The reason is he's doing a good job.
And he came up. We talked about many things, including he's going to be opening up large portions and, ultimately, pretty quickly, because he's got great numbers - all of Florida. And I thought Ron would maybe - we're together, we're in the White House. This was a - sort of, a little bit of an unplanned meeting, and then we said, "Well, let's bring in the press. Let's talk to them if you'd like." And we had some boards made up.
And Ron has a few things to say. So, Ron DeSantis, please.
Well, thank you, Mr. President. I think what we're going to talk about is, kind of, our plan for nursing homes, our most vulnerable, what we did from the beginning, and then some of the innovations in testing. And that was really, kind of, state conceived and executed, but with great federal support. And it's made a difference.
Our nursing home population - obviously very vulnerable in the state of Florida - so we knew by the time this all started, that that was the most vulnerable part in Florida. So we immediately suspended visitation. We had all staff required to be screened for temperature. They had to be asked a series of questions about contacts they may have had. And then we did require the wearing of PPE, such as masks.
But we also wanted to be offensive about it, so we deployed over 120 of these ambulatory assessment teams to long-term care facilities. That was over 3,800 facilities. And we were working on a needs assessment, trying to figure out where they were deficient so we could try to get ahead of this.
And then we also deployed rapid emergency support teams; we call them "RES teams." These are to facilities where you're training people on infectious controls and helping to augment their clinical mission. So that's the Florida Department of Health going out, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration going out and doing it.
So what happened was: There were times when some of the facilities didn't follow the regulations, they'd let a sick worker go in, and you would see an outbreak. Most of them did a great job. But what we started to see is there were people that would follow all of this, but you could have a staff member that was just simply asymptomatic and then it would spread amongst the staff. And when you're working with nursing care patients, you have to be in contact with them. That's just the reality.
So we said, "All right, how do we get ahead and try to identify outbreaks amongst asymptomatic and try to limit it so it doesn't affect more of the residents?" So we created - and then you - your support of allowing the National Guard with the funding -
Well, we have 50 mobile teams - we call them "strike teams" - that they go prospectively into different nursing facilities and they will test. Sometimes they'll test everyone; sometimes they'll test a sample just to see if there's any prevalence of the virus. So they've already done over 6,000 of those tests. And I think that it's been able to limit some outbreaks.
And then, because we're saying you got to wear PPE, because we're making these directives, we had to step up to the plate, and obviously, federal support on some of the materials. But we have put out, just to our nursing facilities, almost 7 million masks to the nursing facilities in Florida; almost a million gloves; half a million face shields; 160,000 gowns. And so that is a huge thing. That helps reduce the transmission.
Give me that, Ron. Let me have that. I'll hold it.
Yeah. And then the result has been -
I'll be an easel. (Laughs.)
- you know, if you look at the fatalities per 100,000, for Florida, we've been able to keep the rate low. 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. We're constantly looking for ways of how we can innovate. But, you know, our fatality per 100,000, fortunately, I think is much lower than most people would have predicted just a couple months ago. So thank you for your support on that.
And then I think the other area that we've really worked well with the White House and the administration on is with testing. This was a big deal when we were first starting. I've showed the President - most states were able to do the drive-through testing. We had one of the most successful sites with the Florida National Guard down in Broward County, which is one of our initial hotspots. And they're putting through 750 a day for quite a while. The demand is now lower, but they were able to do the traditional drive-through testing.
But we also have done other things. So we wanted to learn more about COVID-19 very early on, and so the state partnered with the University of Florida to do both clinical testing and research testing in The Villages retirement community. We got 125,000 seniors in Central Florida. And so, as you know, they all do their golf carts, so it's not actually car drive-through testing, it's golf cart drive-up testing. But they loved it.
And we did 1,200 asymptomatic seniors in The Villages to try to see the prevalence of the virus amongst people not showing symptoms. The result of that was pretty astounding: Zero tested positive out of 1,200 asymptomatic seniors.
So, partnering with our academic institutions - I know Dr. Birx talks about using all the resources you have. We're doing that in Florida, and I think that that's been very successful.
One of the things we also noticed, though, is not everyone has access to a drive-through test site. Maybe you don't own a car. Maybe it's just too far away. So we worked with different groups, like the Urban League in Broward County, to go into communities that may be underserved and do this walk-up testing concept. So you actually have people who are in the neighbor- - they can just walk up, get tested. We have everything set out.
And so we've done though in Southern Florida, Central Florida. We did one at a housing project in Jacksonville. And so we're going to continue with this concept. This is a way, as you go get back to business, you can put this almost anywhere. You can put it in a business district and then have people have access to this. So we think that that's very important.
And then, of course, our National Guard strike teams at the long-term care facilities have just been very, very important. So the support of the Guard - the support of all the supplies, whenever we needed them to get down, it's really made a difference.
Going forward, we've already done contracts. Dr. Birx laid out how there's all this lab capacity. So we already have contracts to double our capacity in 24-, 48-hour-type timeframe. And then we're going to turn our state labs into high-throughput labs as well. So that's going to take a month or so, but we're really looking forward to that.
I will say this, though: We have seven drive-through sites around the state of Florida that we operate. Our ability to test exceeds the current demand. And we don't have restrictive criteria. It started off more restrictive. If you have coronavirus symptoms, test. If you're a healthcare worker, first responder, come test. If you have no symptoms at all but just think you may have been exposed, come and test.
And so we have seen more of those latter start to come, but the overall numbers of people who are seeking testing is not currently beyond our capacity. So we're going to have a lot more capacity going forward, but we still, right now, are able to meet the current demand.
So you actually have more testing than you have demand.
Right now. Yep.
It's a fantastic thing.
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