Gov. Ron DeSantis made the case for testing international travelers for COVID-19, taking advantage of the national platform he had Tuesday in the Oval Office.
The Governor joined President Donald Trump to discuss the state and country’s response. And while the two have explored the possibility before, the Governor was able to raise it face to face with the President and make it a central facet of the press availability.
“One of the things I’ve mentioned to the President, you know, you have this Abbott Labs test, if you have some of these international flights, maybe some of these airliners, it should be on them to check before they’re getting on and coming to this country so that we’re able to keep it,” he said.
A month ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved five-minute COVID-19 tests produced by Abbott Laboratories. With those test kits now in the hands of Florida medical professionals, the state has been able to proactively test individuals in nursing homes, at hospitals and in instances where a quick result is crucial.
Trump seemed on board with the plan, indicating a process was already in development.
“We’re also setting up a system where we do some testing and we’re working with the airlines on that,” the President said. “Testing on the plane, getting on the plane,” he clarified.
As for cutting off international travel from Brazil or elsewhere, Trump said he was talking with DeSantis and would make a decision in the coming days.
“I did it with China, I did it with Europe. That’s a very big thing to do,” he said. “It’s certainly a very big thing to do to Florida because you have so much business from South America. We’ll be looking at that.”
DeSantis shared fears that travelers from Brazil could seed infections in Florida as travelers from China did on the West Coast.
“I think that Brazil and some of those places, which have a lot of interaction with Miami, you’re going to probably see the epidemic increase their as their season changes, and so we could potentially be way on the other side doing well in Florida and then you could just have people, kind of, come in,” he said.
During the Oval Office press availability, the President sounded deferential to the Governor at times.
“Would you ever want to ban certain countries?” Trump asked DeSantis.
“If they were seeding the United States, I think you should ban them,” the Governor responded.
“You’ll let us know. You’ll be watching and you’ll let us know,” Trump said.
When asked about requiring airline passengers to take tests before getting on flights or wearing masks on planes he also invoked the Governor.
“We’re looking at it very closely and we’re in coordination with other governors also, but in particular with Ron. We’ll make that decision pretty soon,” he said.
While Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties continue to be the state’s COVID-19 hot spot, with three fifths of the state’s cases alone coming from the three South Florida counties, Orlando’s outbreak has been minimal by comparison, with only 1,363 cases in Orange County. Only 50 people are hospitalized with the disease in the Orlando area.
“In spite of all the international travel, I mean we have so many people that go to Orlando, Miami and all that,” DeSantis said. “If you look at our outbreak, not a lot of it is tied to that. It’s mostly tied to New York City travel into the three southern Florida [counties].”
Before issuing a stay-at-home order for Florida, the Governor put New York-area travelers in his crosshairs, requiring plane travelers from the Tri-State area to self isolate before adding all recent travelers from the area. Later, he added New Orleans to the restricted travel list and ordered highway checkpoints on Interstate 10 and Interstate 95 at the state’s western and northern borders to identify drivers headed to the state.
DeSantis’ White House visit is the apparent conclusion to his media tour that began over the weekend in which he visited Cleveland Clinic, Orlando Health and Tampa General Hospital. The Governor teased an update coming Wednesday from his Re-Open Florida Task Force.