COVID-19 appears to be on the decline in Florida, but Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state will be ready in the case of an autumn resurgence.
Speaking in Daytona Beach Sunday, ahead of Phase One of Florida’s reopening on Monday, the Governor spoke about the future of the state’s pandemic response.
“Nobody really knows what the shape the epidemic’s going to take,” he said. “As we go into Phase One, we just have to wait and see and look at the data.”
Public health experts have warned the virus’ trajectory may be comparable to the 1918 Spanish Flu. That pandemic hit the United States with greater force in the fall after receding over the summer.
“Well if that happens, we’re going to have a much better infrastructure put in place than the country had in February or early March,” DeSantis said.
The state has secured COVID-19 virus antibody tests, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that can show whether someone has already contracted and overcome the virus. Those tests may be available in drive-thru sites alongside the original COVID-19 tests.
But DeSantis hoped research institutions could use them to systematically sample portions of the population. A University of Miami study found that about 165,000 Miami-Dade County residents had antibodies by the time 10,600 had tested positive.
Similar serological tests and other medical developments will leave the state better prepared in the event of a COVID-19 resurgence. New products and technologies are coming online all the time, the Governor said.
“Just going back two or three weeks from today, there’s so much more available than there even was,” he added. “And then as you were getting through March and into April, it seems like there was a new emergency-use authorization almost every day from the FDA. So the private sector’s really gotten involved in this and is really pushing out a lot of great products.”
Because cases are declining and hospitals have successfully avoided the flood of patients that early predictions suggested to overwhelm hospital capacity, the state is moving forward with Phase One on Monday. Moving forward to Phase Two, or even a reversal, is dependent on the expansion of COVID-19 testing and hospital capacity.
“We are going to look to see do you have a trend where hospitals are starting to get overburdened and if that is tied to anything that we’re doing in terms of Phase One,” DeSantis said. “But I also want to see if there’s a connection to that. For example, I view the nursing home problem as separate from whether businesses can reopen.”
Protecting the elderly and those with underlying health conditions has been a continued focus of the state’s response to the pandemic. As of a Sunday report from the Department of Health, 485 residents and staff of longterm care facilities, including nursing homes, have died due to complications from the disease.