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Florida activating National Guard in parts of state this weekend, DeSantis says

DeSantis, speaking at a Florida Department of Health warehouse about 20 minutes from the Capitol, said the state has also received another 1,000 test kits out of the 2,500 they ordered this week.
 
Gov. Ron DeSantis during Friday's news conference in Tallahassee as Surgeon General Scott Rivkees looks on.
Gov. Ron DeSantis during Friday's news conference in Tallahassee as Surgeon General Scott Rivkees looks on. [ SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published March 13, 2020|Updated March 13, 2020

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TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis said he will activate the National Guard in certain parts of the state, as well prohibit all visitation to nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other sites in Broward County, he announced Friday, after more people tested positive for coronavirus.

DeSantis, speaking at a Florida Department of Health warehouse about 20 minutes from the Capitol, said the state has also received another 1,000 test kits out of the 2,500 they ordered this week. They will sent to labs and hospitals around the state, he said.

Currently, the state is testing up to 400 samples per day across three state and private labs. He hopes to have an additional 50 labs each capable of conducting 100 tests per day.

He said anyone who needs to be tested is getting tested.

“We’ve had capacity to meet the folks who have been referred up to this point,” DeSantis said.

He said voting will take place on Tuesday during the presidential preference primary. Minutes before the news conference, Louisiana announced it was postponing its primary.

“They voted during the Civil War,” DeSantis told reporters. “We’re going to vote.”

On Thursday, DeSantis announced that he was limiting visitors to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult family care homes, long term care facilities and adult group homes across the state in an effort to prevent those people from getting sick.

Any visitors should be screened for fevers and asked about their travel history. Older people and people with underlying health conditions are particularly susceptible to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, which carries a morbidity 20 to 40 times higher than the flu among those populations.

But after an overnight increase in cases in Broward County, he announced an outright ban on visitation at those sites in that county. There are now 11 cases in Broward County, he said.

Florida still does not have “community spread” of coronavirus, considered an important threshold, state officials said. Community spread is defined as multiple cases of unknown origin in the same area.

How the National Guard will be deployed has not yet been decided, DeSantis said. There are doctors and nurses in the guard, and they could be sent to help hospitals around the state or to establish field clinics, he said.

The governor dismissed any concerns about his own health. He was in Miami for a news conference on Thursday, and Miami’s mayor has already tested positive for the virus. DeSantis said he has not been tested.

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”I am not in any way concerned about my health,” he said. “I don’t think it represents a threat to someone like me.“

Increasing the number of tests remains a priority, he said, although neither he nor his surgeon general, Scott Rivkees, were able to say when the state would be capable of the kinds of drive-thru testing seen in other states.

The nation’s two largest private laboratory companies, LabCorp and Quest diagnostics, are starting to do tests. By the end of next week, both companies will be doing 20,000 samples each day across the country, he said.

Testing kits at Gov. Ron DeSantis' news conference on Friday.
Testing kits at Gov. Ron DeSantis' news conference on Friday. [ SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times ]

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus guide

Q&A: The latest and all your questions answered.

EVENT CANCELLATIONS: Get the latest updates on events planned in the Tampa Bay area in the coming weeks.

PROTECT YOURSELF: Household cleaners can kill the virus on most surfaces, including your phone screen.

BE PREPARED: Guidelines for essentials to keep in your home should you have to stay inside.

STOCK UP YOUR PANTRY: Foods that should always be in your kitchen, for emergencies and everyday life.

FACE MASKS: They offer some protection, but studies debate their effectiveness.

WORKPLACE RISK: A list of five things employers could be doing to help curb the spread of the disease.

READER BEWARE: Look out for bad information as false claims are spreading online.

OTHER CORONAVIRUS WEBSITES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Florida Department of Health

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