Health experts at Tampa General Hospital are in lockstep with Gov. Ron DeSantis on whether Florida is ready to reopen.
Tampa was the latest stop in the Governor’s media tour ahead of him receiving a report from his Re-Open Florida Task Force, which will outline short-term recommendations for how the economy and society will enter phase one of the anticipated three-step reopening.
DeSantis has faced criticisms from Democrats for the composition of the task force, which leans heavily toward business interests. Tampa General Hospital’s President and CEO John Couris is the only health expert on the task force’s executive committee.
But sitting side by side with the Governor and other Tampa General health experts during the Monday press conference, Couris didn’t give Democrats what they wanted to hear. Rather, he advanced the reopening rhetoric a step further.
“We are ready to open,” Couris said. “And I’m not only speaking for Tampa General Hospital but probably speaking for every hospital across the state.”
Flanking DeSantis was Tampa General Vice President Dr. Charles Lockwood. From here, he said the state’s COVID-19 response will move from mitigation to containment to shutting the epidemic down.
“There’ll be outbreaks and there’ll be flares, but it’ll allow us to return to a much more normal state,” Lockwood said.
Because of the unprecedented nearly global lockdown, DeSantis said the reopening would have to be methodical and data-driven, possibly slower than others would like.
“As you look about going forward, I think folks should see a light at the end of the tunnel for the state of Florida,” he said. “It’s not going to be something that a switch is going to be flipped. This is going to be, slow and steady wins the race.”
Some of those who might think the reopening will be too slow include small business owners, who during last week’s task force discussions pushed for a quick but clear reopening.
But phase one of the reopening will be just a baby step, the Governor said. Parts of the state, like the Panhandle or Jacksonville, that have had contained outbreaks compared to the thousands of cases in South Florida, could open sooner than others.
DeSantis praised Tampa General for its data-driven approach to the pandemic and criticized other hospitals for panic among their executives.
“I had some people in some hospitals say ‘I need 600 ventilators.’ I’m like, well, how many people do you have intubated right now? ‘Three, but it’s coming, I need it.’ And I’m like, what’s that based off of,” he said. “If you need it, it’s one thing, but what’s that based off of, and I think TGH, they were always very calm, cool, collected, never panicked, never hair on fire, let’s follow the facts, follow the science and do it, and I think that they’ve done an outstanding job.”