President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis assured state residents Friday that the White House, state agencies and public health officials are working hard to get the Sunshine State through the two crises looming this weekend: Hurricane Isaias and the COVID-19 pandemic. During a roundtable discussion at Pelican Golf Club in Belleair, the two urged Floridians to make preparations as the storm nears the state today and to follow instructions from state and local officials. They also continued to advocate personal responsibility and good hygiene as a way to curb the virus outbreak that has spiked in recent weeks, raising the cumulative number of infections in the state to more than 470,000.
“We’ve done everything we can do,” Trump said after listing emergency preparations under way, “and now we’re just waiting for the storm.”
He expressed confidence in DeSantis, who on Friday issued a state of emergency for all counties along Florida’s east coast as the storm is expected to track close to the state’s shoreline along its northern journey.
DeSantis cautioned people to take the system seriously and have seven days of food, water and medicine on hand.
The governor also thanked Trump for his help in providing protective equipment, testing supplies, ventilators and drugs, including the antiviral medication Remdesivir, to help deal with the pandemic.
“Anytime we needed anything, we could talk to the president, the vice president, and we’ve got it,” DeSantis said.
He said new point-of-care testing machines, being supplied to long-term care facilities, will provide results in minutes, speeding up checks of staff now required every two weeks. These quick tests also raise the prospect of allowing relatives to once again visit elderly residents who have been isolated in their residences to protect them from infection.
The machines also figure prominently in a strategy to convert some virus testing sites, probably in hard-hit Miami-Dade County, to testing for people with virus symptoms, DeSantis said. The rapid results will give the state a quicker fix on what is happening with the virus, without the long waits many people have experienced after being tested.
Other participants in the meeting also offered comments on the twin crises facing the state.
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, said he’s received assurances from the governor of Puerto Rico that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is stepping up to help the island after its brush with Isaias. He also said the Trump administration’s accelerated efforts to find a vaccine for COVID-19 will be a game-changer in halting the epidemic.
Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar said the coronavirus is prompting emergency officials to urge residents to shelter in place where possible rather than evacuate to group shelters. If they must go to shelters, residents should wear masks and try their best to keep their distance from others and wash their hands, he said.
Trump predicted cases would start to decline and said he felt the trends in hospitalizations and other factors are heading in the right direction.
He also praised Florida’s protection of the elderly during the pandemic, avoiding the death toll seen in other states.
“The state of Florida, with regard to the nursing homes, has done an incredible job,” he said.
The president combined the roundtable event with a campaign swing, including a speech to Florida sheriffs and a fundraiser that was closed to reporters, before heading back to Washington on Friday evening.
Florida is considered essential for the president’s reelection prospects
Asked if the rising COVID-19 death toll could diminish his chances in the state, Trump told reporters he had confidence in his adopted home state. He noted the large crowd of supporters who stood along his motorcade route during his visit Friday and unspecified polls as evidence of his position.
“There’s a very good feeling,” Trump insisted.