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Ormond Beach Observer Friday, Apr. 10, 2020 4 months ago

Florida hopes to provide rapid-result COVID-19 tests to every hospital in the state

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The state is also working to acquire an FDA-approved antibodies test.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Florida's government hopes to soon supply each hospital in the state with COVID-19 tests that produce results in minutes, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a press conference streamed on The Florida Channel's website April 10.

"People have been upended through no fault of their own, and I think it's in our country's interest and our state interest to be able to get people back where they were and back to being productive again."

 

— RON DeSANTIS, Florida governor

The state is also working to acquire new antibodies tests that detect whether someone has had COVID-19 in the past, he said, and is distributing personal protective equipment to hospitals and first responders. 

"This has probably been the biggest logistical operation in the history of the state of Florida," DeSantis said, with the state distributing more than 5.2 million masks, among other items. 

The state had its largest logistical mission ever on April 9, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said during the news conference. 

From a warehouse in Orlando, the state distributed 2 million masks, 300,000 face shields, 50,000 containers of hand sanitizer, 500,000 shoe covers, more than 100,000 gowns and 350,000 gloves, he said. 

Florida still has hospital bed capacity, DeSantis said, with 44% of hospital beds and almost 40% of ICU beds still available in the state.

The state has also screened 17,000 people entering from COVID-19 hot spots over the past week and a half, he said.

HEALTH CARE 'STRIKE TEAM' AT SUWANNEE COUNTY NURSING HOME

The Florida Department of Health currently has a "strike team" at a nursing home in Suwannee County, where 51 people, 30 of them staff members, have tested positive, DeSantis said. 

Those infections have been traced back to an employee who was working directly with residents.

DeSantis noted that 85% of the deaths from COVID-19 in Florida have been in patients 65 years of age or older, and said the state is taking special precautions to protect residents of nursing homes and other longterm care facilities, limiting visitation and requiring staff members to wear personal protective equipment.

More rapid testing, when it's more widely available, will also help nursing homes because there will be less likelihood that a resident who is being tested will be waiting at the nursing home for an extended time before results are delivered, DeSantis said.

The state has launched a project to get tablets for nursing homes, so that residents can speak with family members over video technology like FaceTime, he added.

STATE FACES 'CRUSHING DEMAND' IN UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS

Statewide, 225,755 people have filed initial unemployment claims as of this week, and the state has 2,000 employees processing applications or standing by to help if needed, DeSantis said. 

"This is a shock like we've never seen before, so we're shifting as many resources to this as we can to be able to meet this real crushing demand," he said. 

It took many months to reach this number of claims during the Great Recession, he said. 

Typically, the state takes about three weeks to process unemployment claims, but the government is taking measures to speed the process, he said. 

DeSantis said he expects another increase in the number of people furloughed around the middle of the month, from businesses that have been paying employees but have been unable to operate. 

"My hope would be you'll get the money out, but then most of these furloughed employees, once we're able to start Phase 2 of this where we start to have the economy function again, that a lot of those employees will be hired back," he said. "I would support a Phase 4 really focused on protecting employees even more, because people have been upended through no fault of their own, and I think it's in our country's interest and our state interest to be able to get people back where they were and back to being productive again."

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