TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis outlined Florida’s renewed fight against the coronavirus outbreak Saturday -- and it includes a shipment of a pharmaceutical drug, new COVID-19 tests and enforced travel checkpoints along major interstates.
The governor addressed his constituents via livestream from the state’s Capitol telling Floridians to expect a text message outlining a health advisory for people 65 and older, urging them to stay indoors.
He said the text will help reinforce what he’s been saying over the past few weeks -- to take this virus seriously.
“I know a lot of us haven’t shaken hands with anyone for a month now,” he said about people following the CDC guidelines. “Thank you for that.”
The governor said he is increasing efforts to supply hydroxychloroquine in the state, turning to colleagues in Israel to supply the pharmaceutical drug.
“There haven’t been many effective treatments for the coronavirus,” Gov. DeSantis said, adding the drug seemed to work in New York.
Hydroxychloroquine, a drug typically used to treat lupus and malaria, has been praised by President Donald Trump saying it shows “tremendous promise” in treating COVID-19. Its use to treat coronavirus has become controversial as medical professionals advise against its use since it has not been put through a clinical trial, others saying it can still be used a weapon in the war against the pandemic.
“I’m no doctor,” Gov. DeSantis said. “I do believe in the right to try.”
The governor said he’s arranged shipment to Miami-Dade, Broward and Hillsborough Counties. A shipment of hydroxychloroquine will also make its way to Orlando.
The drug is meant to be another treatment option for doctors or patients who wish to use it as treatment. Gov. DeSantis said he will request more shipments for other counties in need after he sees how the first round of supplies goes.
Apart from treatment, he’s also opted to obtain 2,000 coronavirus rapid tests that are meant to provide results less than an hour. He says these tests will first be distributed to South Florida and Jacksonville.
He claims these tests can compete with new coronavirus tests on the market.
[TIMELINE: The spread of coronavirus in Florida]
The FDA recently approved an Advent Lab test that gives a diagnosis in 15 minutes or less. The lab is starting to produce 50,000 of these kits a day starting in the coming week, according to Gov. DeSantis. He’s asked to be a big part of the distribution, saying the state will pay for quicker results.
“Quick results allow hospitals to do a better job,” he said. “And it will at least give people peace of mind.”
With the current kits available, the state has issued approximately 40,000 tests this week, according to the governor.
“To be able to get a rapid test is absolutely game-changing,” he said.
To help stop the spread of the virus in Florida, the governor also expanded his travel restrictions from hot zones in New York and Louisiana, saying there will be checkpoints for those who try to drive into the state too.
He says there is already a checkpoint along I-10 by the Panhandle, curbing traffic from New Orleans and redirecting anyone who may be infected with the virus. He said he plans on doing the same along I-95 for anyone driving in from New York.
These restrictions are on top of the flight mandates that travelers from those locations must be quarantined upon arrival in Florida.
“I don’t have the ability to shut down flights,” Gov. DeSantis said, explaining flights are under federal jurisdiction and beyond his power as governor. “I think it’s an issue when you have people leaving hot zones and coming to different parts of the country.”
Gov. DeSantis said he spoke to President Trump before the news conference, saying the president mentioned the possibility of enforcing a quarantine around the New York area.
“Whatever works, we need to do,” Gov. DeSantis said. “We’ve got a lot of things we need to be doing in the state of Florida.”