Gov. DeSantis to activate National Guard to help battle COVID-19

Governor, state surgeon general fully expect more cases in coming days, week

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees address the media Friday from the Florida Department of Health warehouse.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees address the media Friday from the Florida Department of Health warehouse. (WCTV via CNN)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis updated Florida’s preparations and response to the coronavirus Friday, telling the state to expect the number of positive cases of coronavirus to continues to grow.

DeSantis and state Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees said the overwhelming majority of the now 51 patients in the state are connected to international travel. Of those cases, 45 are residents and six others, including one each in St. Johns and Alachua counties, are from elsewhere. There are also five Florida residents diagnosed with COVID-19 recovering out of state.

Last night, the state announced the first positive cases in both Duval and Clay counties.

The first 1,000 COVID-19 test kits of the 2,500 the state ordered have arrived and are being deployed across the state, based on each county’s need. DeSantis said that with 11 cases identified in Broward County, that county is the focus of special attention and additional restrictions on visits to nursing homes.

Three state labs, including the one in Jacksonville, currently have the capability to do 300 tests a day and the 50 private labs will be able to add another 100 tests a day soon. By next week, up to 50 Quest and Labcorp will also be doing tests.

The state Department of Health said 221 tests are still pending. DeSantis said 90% of the tests have come back negative, but with more testing, DeSantis they fully expect more patients to be identified in the coming days and through next week.

DeSantis said that over the next 24 hours, he will be activating certain components of the Florida National Guard to offer assistance up to and including setting up field hospitals if that becomes necessary.

Speaking from the Florida Department of Health’s warehouse in Tallahassee, where bottled water, medical-grade facemasks and other emergency supplies are available to be deployed where needed, DeSantis said he understands people are frustrated by the cancellations of sporting events and other activities.

“We’re going to have to get through this for the foreseeable future," DeSantis said.

Most face-to-face legal proceedings in the state courts will be suspended for a minimum of two weeks, said Florida Chief Justice Chalres Canady. Local judges are authorized to conduct them via video or electronic means whenever possible.

The mayor of the city of Miami, Francis Suarez, announced earlier on Friday that he had tested positive for the new coronavirus after being in the same room with Brazilian president’s press secretary, who was in previous days in close proximity to President Donald Trump at another event in Mar-a-Lago estate. The Brazilian official tested positive after the Brazilian president’s visits in South Florida last weekend through Tuesday.

“I feel completely healthy and strong,” Suarez said in the statement. “However, I am doing the responsible thing by working with the county’s health department to take every precaution.”

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez have also expressed concerns about coming into contact with the same official, and both said they would be self-isolating. Scott said he was told he did not need to be tested. Gimenez told The Miami Herald on Friday that he had taken a test, which came out as negative.


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