ORLANDO, Fla. – In a news conference Saturday, Gov. Ron DeSantis laid out some of his plans to fight the spread of the coronavirus in Florida, hoping to ease the worries of residents in the Sunshine State.
As of Saturday, the Florida Department of Health has reported 763 Florida-related cases of COVID-19, with the most confirmed cases in South Florida. According to the FDOH, 164 cases have been reported in Broward County. The governor said 156 cases have been confirmed in Miami-Dade County. Twelve Florida COVID-19 patients have died from the virus, according to the governor.
[CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: Interactive map shows Florida coronavirus cases]
The surge to more than 750 Florida cases, reported by state officials at 6 p.m. Saturday, shows a spike of more than 50 cases since the Florida Department of Health’s 11 a.m. update on Saturday.
The department updates its numbers online at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily.
As the number of cases in Florida continues to swell, the governor is revealing some of his plans to fight the further spread of the virus and give worried Floridians some peace of mind.
The number of confirmed cases continues to climb as more testing is being made available throughout the state, something the governor said he is working hard to make possible.
A testing site that opened in South Florida on Friday collected 745 samples in its first few hours of operation, according to the governor. As of 3 p.m. Saturday, that same testing center had already collected another 350 samples and would still be open for a few more hours.
During the news conference Saturday, DeSantis announced that he would be in Central Florida Monday to help launch an additional drive-thru testing center in The Villages.
Federally supported test centers are opening in different areas throughout the state, according to the health department:
- The Jacksonville site at TIAA Bank Field Lot J opened Saturday.
- The Miami-Dade County site at Hard Rock Stadium is set to open on Monday.
- The Orlando site at the Orange County Convention Center is set to open on Wednesday.
Officials said the sites will test those 65 and older who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, as well as first responders and healthcare workers regardless of symptoms.
Health officials said additional testing kits have already been sent to the following places:
- Baptist Health in Jacksonville: 600
- Orlando Health: 600
- City of Tampa test site at Raymond James Stadium (partnership with County and city): 900
- Martin County Cleveland Clinic: 300
- Duval County Health Department: 300
- Miami-Dade County Health Department: 1,200
- Volusia County Health Department: 300
- Johns County Health Department: 600
- Collier County Health Department: 600
- Manatee County Health Department: 600
- Okaloosa County Health Department: 300
- Brevard County Health Department: 600
- Citrus County Health Department: 300
According to the governor, 34 hospitals throughout the state have reached at least 50% occupancy. Because of the growing number of patients being admitted to hospitals, DeSantis has asked state officials to identify facilities that could also be used to house patients if needed.
In regards to how Floridians who need to be tested will afford to get swabbed, the governor said “you’re going to be taken care of” and that if a health officials directs you to be tested, you’re not going to have to pay for it.
In response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Florida, the governor has ordered dining rooms at all restaurants throughout the state to close and other restrictions in place to limit crowds in public, putting a financial strain on several small businesses.
DeSantis said he realizes the financial impact the closures are having and will have on business owners and said he’s working with Sen. Marco Rubio to develop an economic plan.
Earlier this week, DeSantis announced he is setting aside $50 million to help small businesses in Florida immediately, while the federal government works out its economic relief plan.
Despite the growing numbers, DeSantis urged Floridians to remain calm and practice what he called basic rules of hygiene.
“Keep cool and calm down,” DeSantis said.
The governor emphasized that there is no need to panic about the pandemic and said that if you follow the guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- such as social distancing, regularly washing your hands and avoiding contact with sick people -- you will likely be OK.
Here are a few other everyday practices that can help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19, courtesy of the Florida Department of Health:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick and avoid contact with persons in poor health.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your cough and sneeze into a tissue, then dispose of the tissue.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.