Fox News brought on Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday night to tout Florida’s COVID-19 response in the face of media criticism and to take on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s handling in his state.
Laura Ingraham, of Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle,” framed DeSantis’ interview over the backdrop of predictions the pandemic could explode in Florida if the state didn’t completely lock down. Instead, the state has 1,600 fatalities to date and 38,828 total cases. Meanwhile New York’s death toll is 20,828 and the state has confirmed 327,469 total cases.
The key, DeSantis said, was focusing on the elderly population, particularly in long-term care facilities. At least 622 residents and staff of long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities, have died with COVID-19 infections.
“So let’s devote resources to help those folks who are the most vulnerable,” he said. “We did that in Florida, and I think some of these other states we’ve seen did not do that. They took their eye off the ball.”
The Governor highlighted the 50 National Guard strike teams the state has sent to preemptively test nursing home residents and staff across the state. On Wednesday, he unveiled a mobile testing lab intended to visit nursing homes and take samples that could return results within 45 minutes.
One of the Governor’s first actions after state health officials confirmed the virus in the state was to suspend visitation at nursing homes and to screen staff. As of Thursday, the Division of Emergency Management has delivered 10 million protective masks to long-term care facilities.
“We’ve required the wearing of PPE, but we’ve put our money where our mouth is for these facilities,” DeSantis said.
The Governor refrained from attacking Cuomo, at least by name, but did go after media outlets that said the pandemic would put Florida under water, particularly when some counties moved to reopen their beaches.
“They had a spasm in mid-April that Jacksonville was reopening beaches,” the Governor said. “But if you look since then, ICU admissions have fallen off a cliff, hospital admissions down sharply, ventilator use down sharply.”
“We’re three weeks later,” he added. “If this was going to lead to the apocalypse, why are we seeing all the indicators go down instead of up?”
On Monday, Florida began Phase One of its reopening process, which allows restaurants and retail stores to operate at 25% capacity and for hospitals to again conduct elective surgeries. Other restrictions remain in place, including limitations on bars and nightclubs and short-term vacation rentals.
But while some have suggested a state’s COVID-19 response is a zero-sum game — saving lives means tanking the economy — DeSantis said that was a “false choice.”
“We’ve done that in Florida with what we’ve done with long-term care facilities,” the Governor said. “That does not require the economy to be shut down at all.”