homepage logo

DeSantis visits Lee Health, extends SOE order

By Staff | May 12, 2020

In a visit to Lee Health’s Gulf Coast Medical Center Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that 50 National Guard teams have been deployed across the state to conduct COVID-19 testing at long-term care facilities, including testing of employees.

DeSantis and Lee Health also used the visit to highlight the return of elective surgeries, saying it is safe to visit the hospital for procedures.

DeSantis also announced that he was able to obtain a federal waiver for hospitals to receive a higher reimbursement from the federal government for accepting COVID-19 patients. DeSantis said he pushed for the measure as he has restricted anybody diagnosed with a positive test for the coronavirus from returning to a long-term care facility. Of Lee County’s 68 deaths as of May 10, 39 (57 percent) of them have occurred at long-term care facilities.

“We think isolating people is important,” DeSantis said. “Allowing (COVID-19) to spread particularly in an environment like a long-term care facility is something that would be hugely problematic and so we are really intent on pulling all of the levers we can to be able to prevent that from happening.”

DeSantis said some patients have been transferred out of long-term care facilities where it was determined that they could not properly isolate infected individuals.

DeSantis said “we are looking on getting for the state are antigen tests. This is a diagnostic test different from a PCR test (coronavirus test). It’s basically a rapid test.”

The test, which recently was given approval from the FDA, will give quicker results for those testing for COVID-19 in about 15 minutes, DeSantis said. He said the antigen tests can be mass-produced easier.

DeSantis said the state is obtaining remdesivir, a clinical trial drug from Gilead to treat COVID-19. DeSantis said the drug will be distributed to hospitals which need it “and who think it could be useful for patient care. I have no idea whether this thing is effective or not. I am not making any representation. I know it’s been approved. It’s really a decision between a doctor and a patient.”

DeSantis did not expand the subject of the executive order he issued May 8 to extend the state of emergency 60 days at a press conference in which he took a limited number of questions.

The extension occurred on a day when the Florida Department of Health announced 69 new recorded deaths of Florida residents related to the coronavirus known as COVID-19. As of May 10, there have been 1,721 deaths of Florida residents from COVID-19 and 40,982 positive cases of the coronavirus.

On Friday, the Florida Department of Health added eight new deaths from the coronavirus to the total count for Lee County. The Department of Health only counts deaths for Florida residents, not those who died here while vacationing or who don’t list Florida as their primary residence.

The Lee County deaths announced Friday ranged from April 3 to May 6. Of the eight deaths, four were from the past seven days and four were from April. The most recent death, on May 6, was of a 90 year-old-man. The next most recent death, on May 4, was of a 79-year-old woman.

On May 7, the Florida Department of Health announced 358 new confirmed positives of the coronavirus, the lowest number of coronavirus cases recorded since April 28. However, that figure climbed to 788 on May 8 before dropping to 725 on Sunday. There were 647 new cases reported on May 6. The cases have been fluctuating day-to-day with 714 new cases recorded May 2, 576 new cases on May 4 and 585 new cases on May 3.

At Monday’s press conference, DeSantis said that so far in the month of May there has not been a day where more than 5% of coronavirus tests were positive for COVID-19.

DeSantis announced the opening of the state’s first antibody testing site at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami last week. The state opened up a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in Fort Myers at the CenturyLink Sports Complex, which is strictly for the coronavirus and not for antibodies. According to county spokesperson Betsy Clayton, the average wait time when the site opens is two hours though the wait is between 45 minutes to an hour later in the morning. The site is open between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

DeSantis took several questions on the state’s unemployment system, which has been criticized for its slow response time. DeSantis said more than 166,000 new claimants were processed over the weekend though there is still an extensive backlog of cases.

According to data provided by the governor’s office there have been more than 1.8 million unemployment claims submitted to the state, with approximately 1.3 million of those claims identified as unique. The state has processed 1,036,845 of those as of May 10, and has paid out 656,635 of those claims.

DeSantis was asked why more than 30% of claimants have been rejected and said “in a normal situation, the majority of people who apply for unemployment don’t qualify.”