Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wants to take advantage of reduced traffic volume on the state’s roads, amid efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus.
“Notice how the state is quiet. Look at the roads, there’s just not a lot of going on right now and that’s understandable. Given that traffic is down, I’m looking at accelerating infrastructure projects. When you are doing that on busy roads, that causes a lot of problems, but when those roads are no longer busy, if that’s the case for the next month, then we need to make use of that time,” DeSantis said at a Tuesday news conference, a few hours after this tweet from President Trump.
With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill. It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country! Phase 4
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 31, 2020
DeSantis said he expected to make additional announcements about infrastructure projects today.
Here are other takeaways from the Tuesday afternoon news conference:
• One of DeSantis’ priorities has been to expand coronavirus testing in Florida, he said. He expects to see expanding testing, including tests that produce rapid results, in the next few days.
More than 60,000 tests have been conducted already, largely at state-run test sites in southeast Florida. Three southeast Florida counties have about 58 percent of the confirmed cases in the state.
The Tampa-St. Petersburg area has about 7 percent of the state’s confirmed cases, with 472 cases in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties combined as of Tuesday afternoon. The local area got one brief mention during the DeSantis news conference.
“We have been supporting the drive-thru site at Raymond James Stadium that Tampa is running. You have Tampa General, BayCare, some of those health systems involved. I think the city is involved. So we’re supporting that and we’re happy to do so,” he said.
The community collection site at Raymond James Stadium is set to reopen today, after being closed for the past several days. Drive-thru testing at that site is only being administered to people with coronavirus symptoms who have pre-registered and have an appointment, according to a notice from Hillsborough County.
• On Monday, 13 Florida congressional representatives, including Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg and Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, sent DeSantis a letter, urging him to issue a stay at home order for the entire state.
See the letter here: Congressional-letter-to-Gov.-Ron-DeSantis-for-stay-at-home-order
DeSantis has rebuffed calls for a statewide stay at home order, saying the outbreak had not impacted all parts of the state equally, although on Monday he issued an executive order, urging residents of four southeast Florida counties to stay at home.
Pinellas and Hillsborough counties enacted their own “safer at home” orders last week.
DeSantis’ Tuesday news conference took place a few hours after the Miami Herald reported that an epidemiologist had advised Florida’s surgeon general to issue a statewide stay-at-home order. The epidemiologist, Ali Mokdad, a professor at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health and Metrics Evaluation, also is advising the White House task force on the pandemic, the Miami Herald said.
“Who recommended that?” DeSantis asked a reporter at the news conference.
The reporter told the governor it was a scientist advising the White House.
“I’m in contact with (the White House task force) and I’ve said, are you recommending this? The task force has not recommended that to me. If they do, obviously that would be something that would carry a lot of weight with me,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to take whatever they say and implement that in Florida. If any of those task force folks tell me that we should do x, y or z of course we’re going to consider it. But nobody has said that to me thus far.”
• DeSantis said enforcement of stay at home orders would be up to local jurisdictions, and he questioned whether that’s working.
“I don’t have any enforcement arm here. Anything has got to be done by the locals anyway. The southeast Florida folks asked me to close their beaches and so we did, in one of our earlier orders. I was flying out of Miami yesterday, looking at the coast. Guess what? Closed beach. Were there people out there? Damn right there were,” DeSantis said. “There’s a group of people that are just going to pop around and it’s up to the locals to deal with them one way or the other … That’s the reality we’re dealing with, that not everybody believes they need to govern themselves accordingly.”
• As of Tuesday evening, there have been 6,741 confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida and 85 deaths.
“Regardless of age, almost every fatality has had a serious underlying health condition. I’m going to ask the health department to start putting how many of the fatalities did have that,” DeSantis said, referring to the twice-daily updates provided by the Florida Department of Health.