UPDATE: Five things to know: Governor issues new orders

With 903 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported Sunday, Gov. Ron DeSantis held multiple press conferences Monday to update the public. Here are the highlights.

1. Safer at home order for southeast

Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a “safer at home” executive order for the most affected counties in southeast Florida.

DeSantis announced the additional measures during a press conference Monday morning. Under the order residents of Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties would be required to remain at home except for essential business.

“We are all here today to say we want to win the fight against COVID-19,” DeSantis said.

The governor has been hesitant to issue stay at home orders for the entire state citing concerns about economic impacts to largely unaffected communities, but he pointed out Monday that the four counties in the order account for about 58% of all of the known COVID-19 cases in the state.

He said the area was especially vulnerable due to high population density, heavy international travel in Miami and a close partnership between the region and New York, a hotspot for the virus.

“This will get all four counties operating under the same sheet of music,” DeSantis said.    

Generally, safer at home orders require non-essential personnel to remain in their homes except for conducting essential business such as doctor’s appointments or purchasing groceries. Essential workers such as those that staff grocery stores, emergency services and journalists continue to report to work as usual.

2. Potential treatment drug

On the front of treating patients, Florida has received a shipment of hydroxychloroquine. This drug, originally used for the treatment of malaria, received emergency clearance by the FDA Sunday to fight COVID-19 in limited cases.

Evidence for the drugs effectiveness is anecdotal and no clinic trials have been performed.

3. Rapid testing coming to the state

As testing backlogs grow at labs, DeSantis said they are bringing new rapid testing technology to the state. Created by Abbott Labs and with an emergency FDA clearance, this testing device allows for samples to be tested within five to 13 minutes as opposed to days. 

“I understand how frustrating it can be to get a test, and it’s sent off to a lab where it’s waiting in line with 20,000 other samples,” DeSantis said. 

Abbott ID NOW testing device

According to Abbott Labs their testing device, which looks like a large white box, is able to detect tiny amounts of COVID-19 DNA in a sample and multiple that data to provide a clear positive. A similar method is used for DNA testing in court cases.

4. Mask market madness

Providing an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to be a point of discussion for officials. Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said they have millions of these items such as gloves, masks, gowns and face shields coming into the state. The state has also received 300 ventilators, thousands of new hospital beds and other needed equipment for treatment.

But getting N95 grade masks continues to be a point of difficulty he said describing the private market as a Ponzi scheme.

“Right now, there is madness in the market,” Moskowitz said.

He described state officials being forced to participate in bidding wars for shipments and being asked to wire money to accounts that had been created that same day. Warehouses supposedly full of the masks ended up being empty, and cargo flights full of masks never materialized.

Moskowitz called on manufactures 3M and other manufacturers to cut out distributors and brokers, instead selling directly to the state at market price.

“These manufacturers must help us do the right thing. Lives are on the line,” he said.  

5. Retiree return to work

Recently retired law enforcement and health care providers will also be able to return to the field more quickly DeSantis said. He plans to waive a mandatory six-month waiting period, allowing these professionals to assist in the response effort more quickly.


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