Gov. DeSantis: ‘Contact tracing is not going to be enough’

Florida governor says contact tracers not getting a lot of support from younger people

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a news conference Tuesday regarding COVID-19.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a news conference Tuesday regarding COVID-19. (CNN)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday said the state has invested in contact tracing, but that alone isn’t enough.

The governor said he has already green-lighted $138 million for the Department of Health to support contact tracing and other personnel. He said counties have also received money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act so that contact tracing can be done. But he said other measures are important to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“Contact tracing is not going to be enough. You have to have some of the things we’re doing to nursing homes and some of the other things that you’re doing with social distancing,” DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon in Miami.

He said another issue is that younger people aren’t cooperating with contact tracers.

“So when they’re trying to call, they’re just not getting a lot of support,” DeSantis said.

“You do have some informal contact tracing that’s going on with younger people where someone will have like a party at somebody’s house and someone at that party later tests positive then they tell everyone, ‘Hey, I tested positive,’ and then those people go and get tested, so you do see some of that. But, again, we put in a lot of money for it. … But I think it’s important, but it doesn’t do the whole thing when you talk about it in asymptomatic, so it’s not as simple as saying you could just contact trace everything -- not when you have a largely asymptomatic illness.”

A CNN investigation suggested Florida health officials often fail to conduct contract tracing in COVID-19 cases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contact tracing is key to slowing the spread of the coronavirus. In general, contact tracing involves identifying people who have an infectious disease case and people who they came in contact with and working with them to interrupt disease spread.

In addition to using contact tracing to slow the virus’ spread, DeSantis stressed the importance of protecting the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions as the state has added more than 113,000 coronavirus cases over two weeks. According to data reported Tuesday morning by the Florida Department of Health, confirmed COVID-19 cases increased by 7,347 from the previous day’s total across the state.

The governor applauded seniors who have done a good job of being cautious but said those 65 and older and those with underlying significant medical conditions need to be very careful about avoiding crowds and people outside their households.

“Now’s the time to really continue to be very cautious, and we want to limit that close contact so that, you can, you know, avoid being infected,” DeSantis.

Though statistics show the fatality rate is lower for people are under 40 who don’t have an underlying condition, according to DeSantis, that group still needs to be cautious, as well.

“Those folks interact with people who may be in vulnerable groups, and that’s definitely a concern not only with staff in a nursing home but just things like multi-generational living, visiting parents and grandparents. Now is the time to exercise that caution,” he said. “Especially understanding that 20- to 30-year-old cohort, you’re seeing more and more infections in that age group than there probably were already always happening to a certain extent.”

In an effort to protect those most vulnerable to the virus, the News Service of Florida reported an additional five nursing homes in the last week have signed contracts with the state to serve as COVID-19 “dedicated facilities,” where long-term care residents with the disease can be transferred. That brought to 12 the number of nursing homes that have agreed to work with the state, including one that’s opening in Miami with 150 beds and one in Jacksonville’s Arlington neighborhood.

And with South Florida continuing to be the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the state, DeSantis also said, starting Wednesday, 100 contract medical personnel, mostly nurses, will be sent to Jackson Health System in Miami-Dade County to augment hospital operations.

“I think that that’ll be something that’ll be very useful for them, you know, as they continue to deal with not only just COVID patients but also non-COVID patients,” the governor said.

Also on Tuesday, DeSantis issued an executive order that extends the state of emergency in Florida for 60 days and directs that the state will stay in phase two of reopening.

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