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Coronavirus ‘alarming,’ says José Oliva, but Session goes on

As the House concluded its floor session Wednesday, evidence of the coronavirus havoc piled up.

As the House concluded its floor session Wednesday, evidence of the coronavirus havoc piled up.

The NBA announced plans to curtail play until further notice.

Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, tested positive.

The Florida Department of Corrections barred visitation.

The President banned travel to and from Europe.

And more confirmed cases of COVID-19 were announced in Florida.

House Speaker José Oliva, who has described the “panic” related to coronavirus already this week, called the phenomenon “alarming” in a media availability.

But Session will continue as scheduled, he said when asked.

“I think so,” Oliva said. “It’s alarming.”

“Obviously we’re inside these Chambers all day,” he added. “We’re in meetings. We only get news from outside when we get a moment to get our phone.”

“It is alarming the level of reaction,” Oliva continued. “One wonders ‘does the health department know something we don’t’ in regards to the level of risk,’ because if you go just on a case level basis, it certainly would appear to be more than a regular reaction to such a thing.”

“It’s of great concern,” Oliva continued. “Because the current facts don’t seem to support the level of reaction we’re seeing.”

Oliva would not speculate on whether enough people were being tested in Miami-Dade and other major urban areas, but he wasn’t surprised by the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Miami.

“Miami is the gateway to the Americas. People fly in and out of Miami every day. It’s one of the busiest airports in the country,” Oliva said.

Oliva is “confident” that the Health Department is “doing everything they can do.”

“If you look at [their] reaction to our small little event here,” he said, “it was immediate and thorough.”

“I believe everyone is doing everything they can,” Oliva said, adding that he had confidence in Surgeon General Scott Rivkees.

On Monday, Oliva called a recess, announcing that multiple legislators were in contact with the new coronavirus with someone at an “event.”

“They’re not showing any symptoms whatsoever,” Oliva said, “but just to take every precaution necessary and as a courtesy to their fellow members, they have decided to submit themselves to a test.”

“In an effort to set an example in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, and in an abundance of caution for their fellow members and staff, Representatives Anthony Sabatini, Thad Altman, Kionee McGhee, Byron Donalds and Cord Byrd, along with a staff member, have voluntarily agreed to submit to testing after attending an event in Washington, D.C., where an attendee later tested positive,” the Speaker asserted.

However, the affected were determined to be non-symptomatic, and the testing didn’t happen.

Earlier Monday, Oliva said the state’s budget may need to be reconsidered in light of increasingly worrisome economic circumstances.

Oliva, who had spotlighted potential “panic” before, noted that the stock market had to halt trading given the sell orders cascading in early this week as markets opened.

“The ten-year yield is at an all-time low … the Fed is probably going to move another three-quarter points off the interest,” Oliva said, with the momentum due to the coronavirus.

Oliva addressed the budget again Wednesday, saying he and Senate President Bill Galvano wanted to put a “few hundred million dollars” in reserve.

“Of course, if things get worse,” Oliva said, “we’ll have to come back and redo the budget.”

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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