ORLANDO, Fla. – The state’s logistics response center, normally used during and after hurricanes, is now operating 24/7 in an effort to bolster Florida’s defenses against the spread of coronavirus.
Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke from the center, located on Directors Row in Orlando, on Wednesday to announce its full activation as the state sees nearly 1,700 cases of COVID-19.
“This is an important part of the state’s response to the COVID-19 virus. This is a state’s logistics response center. We’ve had it since about 2007 and a lot of other states have copied it,” DeSantis said.
The center boasts 200,000 square feet of climate-control warehouse space, which includes 20,000 square feet dedicated to command-level offices, conference rooms and support areas.
“Today it’s going to be around the clock until we get on the other side of this and so there’ll be employees here nonstop,” DeSantis said.
The main goal of the center is to acquire and distribute crucial supplies to those who need it most. In this case, DeSantis said masks and other personal protective equipment is being taken to hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Getting those supplies to Florida has been difficult as they’re often being diverted to New York City and other hot zones where cases of the deadly respiratory illness are continuing to climb but the governor said he’s expecting about a million masks to arrive in the next week and millions more in the weeks that follow.
Swabs used to collect samples for COVID-19 testing have also been hard to come by.
“We have more trickling in every day,” DeSantis said.
Jared Moskowitz, the director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management, said hurricane supplies were moved out of the logistics center to make way for medical items.
The department has ordered 7.8 millions masks, 3,000 hospital beds, 150 intensive care unit beds, 2,000 ventilators plus booties, gowns, suits and more. In addition to that, two million masks and 5,000 ventilators have been requested from the federal government. He said emergency management employees began placing those orders more than three weeks ago.
“We are starting to really turn the tide, get around the corner on getting this PPE in, get it out and rolling. We have over 5,000 mission requests and those are being filled in an ongoing basis ... making sure we serve the most critical needs first,” Moskowitz said.
There are also plans for the United States Army Corps of Engineers to look at old hospital buildings and wings to see which can be activated in case more capacity is needed.
“This is a massive medical operation, making sure while we don’t necessarily have that need today, making sure we’re ready to have that need in the future,” Moskowitz said.