Florida governor: Look at risk factors as the state reopens

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida should consider not just what businesses are essential as it seeks to begin reopening the state, but also risk factors, Gov. Ron DeSantis told a task force that met by phone Tuesday.

The Republican governor formed the task force Monday and wants recommendations for reopening the state by the end of the week.

“They categorize things as essential business and nonessential business,” DeSantis told the business and political leaders. “As we’re looking about going forward in a safe way where people can get back to work, but we can try to prevent a massive resurgence in cases, it’s probably better to think of different businesses and industries in terms of risk. Is this low risk, or high risk?”

However the state moves forward, DeSantis said, testing for the virus and antibody tests will need to be expanded.

“The public will have a lot more confidence in the reopening if they see there’s testing in place,” DeSantis said.

The state has had nearly 28,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and least 869 deaths. But DeSantis said that hospitals have plenty of empty beds, and that predictions that they’d overwhelmed never bore out.

“There were estimates that this week, Florida would have 455,000 people hospitalized for COVID-19,” DeSantis said. “The actual number is closer to 2,000. We’ve been able to flatten the curve.”

Meanwhile, the Florida Medical Association called on DeSantis to rescind an executive order issued March 20 that prohibited hospitals and surgery centers from performing nonemergency elective procedures as an effort to conserve medical supplies and protective equipment.

“While the state has understandably focused on the immediate needs of fighting COVID-19, it is imperative that we not ignore a potential second crisis: a wave of emergencies and fatalities among the people delaying care or going untreated. Many of the physician practices that would deal with this pent-up demand have seen their revenues plunge and face imminent closure,” said association President Ronald Giffler in a letter to the governor.

DeSantis later said he was working toward that goal.

“That absolutely has to happen. I can’t tell you when it’s going to happen, but I’m committed to getting it done,” DeSantis told reporters during a late afternoon news conference. “We need to do it pretty quickly because if we keep it up the way we’re going I think people are going to get laid off and I think there will be less financial viability for some of these health care outlets.”

As for the first phase of reopening the state, DeSantis said he doesn’t have a date in mind.

“We have a lot of this stuff in place till April 30th, and then we’ll see what it looks like after. But I haven’t set a specific date because I think it’s more important to do it right than necessarily to have an artificial day,” DeSantis said.

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