Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference Friday evening to update the state on current changes he is trying to enforce to stop the spread of COVID-19. He said there is still a lot we don't know about this virus, but they do know it targets the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
He called on owners and employers of Assisted Living Facilities to take more responsibility and precaution when it comes to the virus and protecting their residents. He confirmed two more deaths of seniors from Altria Wildwood in Broward County, where they have seven positive cases total and more tests pending.
He said an investigation revealed construction workers, chefs and other staff members who were ill and had not been screened were allowed to work at the senior living facility "unimpeded."
"If you are an operator of one of these facilities, you need to take measures to protect your residents," said DeSantis. "You need to take action to protect your people."
In regard to the first drive-thru testing site that opened in Broward County, the "epicenter" of the virus in Florida, DeSantis said they collected 407 samples by 4 p.m. Friday. The site is located in Pembroke Pines at C.B. Smith Park and will be open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
"There are backlogs with the private labs to turn the test results," said DeSantis. "We would like to scale this up and hopefully replicate it throughout the state because the number one thing we need is just a lot more people to be tested."
He said they are working on setting up a similar testing site at The Villages, but they will allow for golf carts there.
While he initially just restricted restaurant service to allowing limited seating inside to keep businesses afloat, not all restaurants were following protocol. Out of an abundance of caution, he said they are now moving to take-out and delivery only. To help business owners, he waved some applicable regulations, allowing for alcohol deliveries with food.
He is also allowing closed-down bars to sell back alcohol, which will ultimately benefit retailers since their demand is so high right now.
DeSantis issued an executive order stopping elective and unnecessary surgeries. He said protective equipment for health care providers is in too short supply.
The first Small Business Bridge Loans have been approved after a "very quick" three-day review process and he encouraged others to start applying if they haven't already.
His team is working on re-employment assistance. He said they will have an update from the Labor Department on unemployment numbers next week. The job search portal is now open to all people without having to file a claim and there will be no penalties to employers with using the system of the job search portal.
The Florida Department of Health has over 700 school nurses ready to help and be deployed in their communities since school is out.
A little under 9,000 tests between the Department of Health labs and private labs have been conducted across the state. It is a steep increase and they are hoping to continue to scale up those tests.
He emphasized the need to self-isolate. If someone is positive for COVID-19 and not self-isolating they will contact local law enforcement to enforce self-isolation to keep the risk at bay.
He said businesses should allow employees to take the safety precautions they need without worrying about the appearance, such as wearing masks, or the impact on customers. He said keeping people safe is the number one priority and stressed that is would be the smart business decision to keep employees safe to protect everyone and prevent the spread.
In the coming months, the federal government will issue a million of masks to the state. He thanks the president for setting up federal testing sites in Florida, the first of which will open in Jacksonville Saturday morning, March 21.
DeSantis said their number one priority moving forward is obtaining more swabs so they can offer more testing sites. They are also working to obtain more protective gear for health care workers.
He reminded everyone to continue practicing social distancing, but that that does not mean shutting yourself in 24 hours a day seven days a week. You can still enjoy the outdoors, but maintain your distance from people and wash your hands regularly.