After Gov. Ron DeSantis’ denial that Florida requested COVID-19 supplies prompted a back and forth with the White House, DeSantis said Wednesday his denial wasn’t inaccurate, rather the way the reporter asked the question caused confusion.
A reporter asked DeSantis Tuesday about a request from Florida’s Division of Emergency Management to the federal government for “respirators.” DeSantis said he hadn’t heard anything about that. And the Governor was right, because the request from Florida was for 300 ventilators.
“I was asked about respirators, which are actually different. And so, we’ve never really had any hospitals ask about it,” DeSantis clarified speaking to reporters at a press conference in Jacksonville Thursday.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a ventilator is a “device used to maintain artificial breathing or circulate fresh air,” while a respirator is “a mask used to protect the wearer from particulates in the air.”
“The mechanical ventilators, we’ve been giving those out the whole time,” DeSantis said Thursday.
The reporter’s interchange of the word ventilator with respirator is a common one.
“Historically, respirator has been confused with ventilator often enough that it has a secondary definition similar to that of ventilator,” reads an entry in Merriam-Webster.
But DeSantis, pragmatic as ever, indicated he was not aware of the colloquial interchange of the two words, which led to the confusion. The White House piled onto that confusion Wednesday when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, responding to a reporter’s question, implied DeSantis was opposed to receiving ventilators, a charge his press secretary, Christina Pushaw, denied.
“As a policy, we don’t send ventilators to states without their interests in receiving the ventilators,” Psaki said. “I think the most important question here is, why would you oppose receiving ventilators when you clearly need those in your state given the percentage of hospitalizations that are occurring?”
Pushaw also denied an immediate need for the ventilators. She said in a written statement the request for the lifesaving devices was “just in case,” and Florida does not currently have a shortage of ventilators.
Media coverage swarmed over the request for ventilators, because it indicated Florida’s COVID-19 wave could get worse even as DeSantis claims it’s getting better. A pair of UF scientists recently released a model that projects it will be about two weeks before Florida’s current surge peaks.
Florida’s COVID-19 hospitalizations were continuing to peak as of the latest available data Wednesday, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Hospitals recorded an all-time high since the pandemic began with 15,071 people hospitalized for COVID-19 across the state.
When DeSantis originally denied Florida requested respirators, he said Florida has been stockpiling COVID-19 resources.
“We have a lot of stuff that we stockpiled over the last year and a half through the department of emergency management,” he said.