‘Contact tracing is not going to be enough,’ Gov. DeSantis says in fight against COVID-19

Governor's office previously approved $138 million to state department of health

FILE - In this Thursday, May 14, 2020, file photo, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference in Doral, Fla. A federal appellate court has stayed a lower court ruling that gave impoverished Florida felons the right to vote. The order issued Wednesday, July 1, 2020, disappointed voting rights activists and could have national implications in November's presidential election. In May, a federal judge ruled that Florida law cant stop disenfranchised felons from voting because they cant pay back any legal fees and restitution they owe. DeSantis immediately appealed to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, requesting a stay of the ruling and a review of the case by the full appeals court. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Lynne Sladky, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MIAMI, Fla. – Contact tracing is not the foundation of Florida’s strategy to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a Miami medical center Tuesday.

When asked if he would be hiring more contact tracers for the state department of health, he evaded the question saying millions of dollars had already been allocated to the agency.

“I’ve already greenlight $138 million for the department of health to support not just contact tracing but other personnel,” he said.

He said counties can hire contact tracers based on their individual needs using CARES Act funding but the state funds allocated to the Florida Department of Health is for the agency to use to combat the virus at a state level.

“It’s a component,” he said about contact tracing. “But at the end of the day, you know this is not a disease in which you get visibly sick. Most of the people walking around with this either don’t know they have very mild symptoms and will never come in contact with the help.”

DeSantis’ comments come as the FDOH reported 7,347 new cases of coronavirus Tuesday. Statewide, another 380 people have been hospitalized due to complications with COVID-19.

[RELATED: Central Florida’s largest hospitals out of ICU beds but say they can scale up if COVID-19 demand increases]

Florida has seen 213,794 cases of COVID-19 since the virus was first detected in the state on March 1. South Florida consistently remains the hardest-hit region making up a bulk of the state’s cases. Orange County falls in the top five counties with the most reported cases in the state.

DeSantis reiterated that it’s a younger demographic of Floridians who have recently been infected with the virus, saying its people in their 20s and 30s who are now making up a bulk of the new infections. During the question and answer portion of the news conference, he said this demographic isn’t responsive to contact tracing efforts.

“Another problem that you’ve seen is typically the younger folks aren’t cooperating with contact tracers,” he said. “They’re just not getting a lot of support."

The governor said Monday the largest age with cases in Florida is among 21 years old. He’s previously pointed to younger Floridian’s tendency to take advantage of the state’s reopened bars and restaurants and being part of larger gatherings as a reason for the spread of the coronavirus. He said as groups gather its difficult to trace exposure unless people in this younger demographic gets tested.

“You do have some informal contact tracing that’s gone on with younger people where someone will have like a party at somebody’s house and someone at that party later test positive and they tell everyone,” he said. He noted the individual who tested positive often encourages others to get tested as well, but one can’t force the others at the gathering to get tested, which could become an obstacle for contact tracers.

“I think it’s important, but it doesn’t do the whole thing when you talk about an asymptomatic (virus) so it’s not as simple as saying you could just contact. Not, not when you have a large asymptomatic illness,” the governor said.

He said beyond contact tracing, Floridians need to protect its vulnerable populations and continue to take precautions.

[RELATED: Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterates commitment to curbing the spread of COVID-19 in long term care facilities]

“Look, we understand now how this thing is transmitted. When it’s hot out there you pack a bunch of people in private residents you know have a party loud music a lot of hooting and hollering, that is going to be a strong venue for transmission. They understand that if you maintain physical distance, you know the chance of you in fact are being affected drops dramatically,” he said. “I think are really the significant behaviors and then obviously for the vulnerable populations to be limiting your close contact outside your home to avoid crowds, as much as you can.”

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