TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference Saturday evening to provide updates on the state's efforts to combat COVID-19.
He said the Memorial Healthcare drive-thru testing site in Broward County proved to be successful when it launched on Friday. Broward County is still considered the "epicenter" of the virus in the state with its high number of cases, followed next by Miami-Dade.
DeSantis said officials anticipated about 250 test swabs at the location per day, but he said by the end of the day Friday they had taken 745 samples. As of 3 p.m., Saturday that same site had collected another 450 samples, with two hours still left for testing.
DeSantis again said the expansion of the testing sites is a top priority. Officials continue to see increases in the number of people who test positive for COVID-19, but he reminded people that that is to be expected right now.
The federally sponsored testing site opened in Jacksonville Saturday morning and DeSantis said, after speaking to Sheriff Mike Williams, he learned the process went relatively smooth and was lighter traffic than expected, so now officials may expand the ages for testing.
The federal site in Miami-Dade site will open on Monday and the federal site in Orlando will open on Wednesday.
He expressed optimism in increasing the expediency of the process. A couple of weeks ago, swabs were being sent to the CDC lab in Atlanta for testing, but now officials are working to utilize local labs to speed up the results.
"Our goal will be to be able to cast as broad a net with this as possible," DeSantis said.
He said the FDA recently approved an "instant test" that can yield results in an hour, but the demand is extremely high. He said officials monitoring the situation are actively looking at that, along with all other possibilities in the works.
With more data, officials are learning that the majority of people who test positive for the virus are under the age of 60, so he called on people of all ages to be cautious. However, people 65 and older with underlying conditions are still experiencing more severe side effects and seeing more fatalities.
DeSantis said his team is working with organizations all over the state, public and private, to ramp up their efforts. Hotels are offering beds for virus patients to contain the spread and convention centers are offering space for testing.
Currently, 34 hospitals across the state are at 50 percent or more capacity. They are looking at additional spaces for medical facilities, including using the private sector. He said they are working to bring in more hospital beds and protective gear from healthcare workers on a daily basis.
DeSantis also offered an update on Atria Willow Wood, the Assisted Living Facility that had the first senior death in the state. DeSantis again hammered them for not imposing the necessary health requirements to keep their residents safe. He said the facility allowed sick construction workers, sick hospital staff, and kitchen staff to work there. They currently have three deaths there, with ten total cases, and four more tests pending.
"We must protect our senior citizens in our nursing homes and senior facilities," said DeSantis.
There are now state health officials monitoring the facility to ensure the health and safety of the older residents.
There have been 12 total fatalities in Florida due to the virus, along with 720 new cases in the state, 664 of which are from Florida residents.
DeSantis reminded people that while they can get the virus by touching a surface or an object and then touching their face, the main way to get the virus is still from close contact with someone who has the virus.
"That’s why social distancing is the best way to protect yourself," said DeSantis.
He said he does have concerns for mental health across the state as people stay home with little to do or watch. He encouraged people to still enjoy the outdoors and stay busy, as long as they keep their distance from people and continually wash their hands properly.
"I urge people to take a deep breath," he said. "You can protect yourself from this. As long as you are following these precautions, you’re going to be good."