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DeSantis discusses long-term facilities, testing and unemployment

By Staff | May 18, 2020

In a visit to Lee Health’s Gulf Coast Medical Center on May 11, 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. He said he pushed for the measure as he has restricted anybody diagnosed with a positive test for the virus from returning to a long-term care facility. Of Lee County’s 68 deaths as of May 10, 39 of them – 57 percent – 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.”

He 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. 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. He 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,” he said. “I know it’s been approved. It’s really a decision between a doctor and a patient.”

DeSantis did not expand upon the subject of the executive order he issued on May 8, which extended the state of emergency for 60 days. He did say that so far in the month of May there has not been a day where more than 5 percent of coronavirus tests were positive for COVID-19.

DeSantis recently announced the opening of the state’s first antibody testing site at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. A drive-thru COVID-19 testing site is open at the CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers, which is solely for the coronavirus. 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. He 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 had processed 1,036,845 as of May 10 and paid out 656,635 claims.

DeSantis was asked why more than 30 percent of claimants have been rejected.

“In a normal situation, the majority of people who apply for unemployment don’t qualify,” he said.