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Ron DeSantis: Florida needs to turn around coronavirus tests faster

“When people go through, a lot of times they’re not getting their results back for seven days," DeSantis said Monday. "Obviously we want to improve that.”

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis acknowledged on Monday that Floridians are not getting their coronavirus test results fast enough.

“There’s a need for faster results,” DeSantis said at a news conference at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. “When people go through, a lot of times they’re not getting their results back for seven days. Obviously we want to improve that.”

DeSantis said the state would add dedicated “symptomatic” lanes for potentially infected residents in Orange County and South Florida to get more rapid tests.

During the news conference, which was interrupted by a heckler urging him to resign, DeSantis took on a somber tone as he described the challenges facing the parts of the state where the coronavirus outbreak has hit hardest. South Florida, the governor noted, is the pandemic’s epicenter in the state.

“This is the toughest part of the epidemic in our state,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to get through it. You guys are a strong city. You’re a strong county, and you’re really a great engine for the state of Florida.

In Miami-Dade County, hospital rooms are filling with coronavirus patients. In the past 30 days, Jackson Health System has seen the number of people hospitalized by the virus double from 200 to 400, the system’s president and CEO Carlos Migoya said. However, Migoya noted there is still space for future patients. And DeSantis said he had sent 100 state-contracted health care workers to Miami-Dade and 100 to the Tampa Bay area to help with hospital and long term care facility staffing.

Throughout June, as Florida’s case numbers started to climb, DeSantis noted that the virus was most prevalent among young Floridians, who are less likely to suffer acutely from the disease. Migoya said this was true in Miami, too.

But now, the CEO noted, the outbreak is reaching more vulnerable older residents.

“The younger people have been contaminating the older people,” Migoya said.

Still, DeSantis reiterated there are reasons to be optimistic in the state. He noted the state is aggressively testing in long term care facilities, and that a low percentage of staffers at those facilities are coming back positive.

And earlier in the day, DeSantis tweeted a video of Charles Lockwood, the dean of Tampa’s University of South Florida Health’s Morsani College of Medicine, laying out the reasons why the recent spike in cases may not be cause for as much alarm as the raw numbers might indicate.

Lockwood noted that coronavirus treatments have improved and that the state has much more emergency hospital capacity than it had at the beginning of the pandemic. The doctor also noted the percentage of positive tests has decreased in recent days in the state.

“We seem to have peaked about a week ago in the emergency department visits for COVID-like illnesses,” Lockwood said in an interview broadcast on CNN.

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