2020欧洲杯正规平台

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Coronavirus in Florida: Gov. DeSantis convenes economic task force as deaths exceed 800

Jeffrey Schweers
USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau

As the number of coronavirus-related deaths exceeded 800 on Monday and many thousands are still out of work, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held the first meeting of his "Re-Open Florida Task Force" via conference call.

2020欧洲杯正规平台"We need to get the economy back in a safe way," DeSantis said, addressing the panel. "Part of that is doing the testing. That will give people the confidence to participate."

2020欧洲杯正规平台Florida is third behind New York and California in testing, with more than 270,000 tested as of Monday night, or about 1.5 percent of the state's population.

As to unemployment claims, the state has paid out $60 million, or 6 percent of those filed.

"What will this look like when we get back?" DeSantis asked, referring to potential changes such as permanent cuts in shifts and work schedules.

Testing has centered on the most vulnerable, those exhibiting the worst symptoms and requiring hospitalization or self-isolation. But DeSantis and his coronavirus response team now are pushing for broader testing in the community, including blood tests that can identify people who have had the coronavirus and carry antibodies.

2020欧洲杯正规平台"Part of what we are going to have to overcome is the psychology of fear over this virus," panel member and Broward County Mayor Dale Holness said. "It is real indeed. If we can get widespread testing for this antibody it might help us to overcome some of that fear we can overcome."

DeSantis said the state would soon be getting 100,000 FDA-approved blood test kits for detecting coronavirus antibodies.

More:With reopening on the table, Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Trump align again

Pandemic economics

2020欧洲杯正规平台Prior to the pandemic, Florida was on pace for a record economic year, Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson said.

"Now it is going to wind up as another" kind of year, Wilson said, noting the state's unemployment rate jumped from 2.8% to 4.3% from February to March, with 1.5 million claims submitted. Wilson said an additional 3.4 million of Florida's 10 million jobs are at further risk.

Meantime, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Florida hit 27,058 Monday evening, the Department of Health reported. The state reported a new total of 823 deaths of those who had tested positive.

Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a conference call with the Re-Open Florida Task Force at the Capitol Monday, April 20, 2020.

The task force includes the mayors of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. South Florida accounts for 59 percent of all infected persons in Florida and about 58 percent of the state's death toll. 

2020欧洲杯正规平台Other task force members include business leaders and executives from tourism, one of the sectors hit the hardest by the pandemic, utilities, aerospace, banking and other sectors.

2020欧洲杯正规平台One person not on the task force: Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who oversees the $137 billion agriculture industry, the state's second largest. The industry Monday reported an estimated $522 million in coronavirus-related crop losses due to the food industry's lack of demand for fresh produce, she said in a news release. 

"Sadly, this is more politics over state from the Governor," said Fried, the only Democrat elected to statewide office and the only cabinet member not asked to serve on the task force. 

2020欧洲杯正规平台"It’s equally concerning that the Governor neglected to mention agriculture on the initial call," she said. "I hope he will join my commitment to supporting our farmers and feeding our families.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a conference call with the Re-Open Florida Task Force at the Capitol Monday, April 20, 2020.

The Governor's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. His Office of Policy and Budget will oversee the group for the next week, "or however long it takes," said Shane Strum, DeSantis' chief of staff.

2020欧洲杯正规平台Working groups divided into industries by their level of economic risk will begin Tuesday morning with a final meeting scheduled for Friday, unless additional time is needed, Strum said. The Office of Policy and Budget will compile the recommendations and brief the governor on them, he said.

2020欧洲杯正规平台One thing Strum noted was a lot of calls have come from restaurants about reopening soon, possibly with outside dining, at even 25% or 50% occupancy. "But they still would have to do social distancing," he added.

2020欧洲杯正规平台DeSantis had previously told reporters he wants to see recommendations on his desk by the end of this week. His executive order requiring people to stay at home, only going out for essential business and activities like walking and biking, expires at the end of the month.

Back in business?

It's likely that Florida's plan will follow President Trump's plan to reopen the U.S. economy, which has taken a huge hit from the coronavirus pandemic, leaving more than 22 million seeking unemployment benefits.

The White House criteria for states to begin a phased reopening of the economy requires a two-week documented decrease in coronavirus cases and influenza-like cases, which falls in line with public health expert recommendations.

What doesn't conform with public health expert recommendations is any plan to ramp up testing. 

Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute2020欧洲杯正规平台, said the country needs to triple the amount of testing it's currently doing to determine which parts of the country are ready to reopen, the New York Times has reported.

Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a conference call with the Re-Open Florida Task Force at the Capitol Monday, April 20, 2020.

But while the President is pushing to reopen the economy as soon as possible, several polls show at least two-thirds of Americans fear states will reopen their economies too soon.

"We’re in a very dangerous period," said Florida U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala during a conference call Monday morning. "This is exactly what happened in 1918."

2020欧洲杯正规平台During the influenza pandemic over 100 years ago, Philadelphia held a parade after seeing a small but encouraging decrease in cases. What followed was a second, more deadly wave of influenza.

Currently, most testing is focused on people coming into health care providers with the worst symptoms and being hospitalized or sent home to recuperate. 

"We're only doing therapeutic testing," Shalala said. "That's just the first step."

Donna Shalala speaks to volunteers in Coral Gables, Fla., during her campaign.

2020欧洲杯正规平台The next step is to test for people who have the virus but don't show symptoms, she added. 

Shalala and other members of Congress, including fellow Florida Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, have introduced their own "Reopen America Act" bill that provides funding for more robust testing.

'Pay attention to the experts'

"Gov. DeSantis has to be a leader and lay out very strong procedures" to reopen the state, Shalala said, adding that she hopes those decisions will be science-based and data-driven.

"Pay attention to the public health experts," Shalala said. "We cannot get our economy going again unless we have the testing regime in place and unless we have some therapeutics so that we can save peoples’ lives.”

Dr. Brent Schillinger, a dermatologist and former president of the Palm Beach County Medical Society, said the pandemic brought with it a certain amount of uncertainty: "Doctors like to see evidence-based data."

Mildred Dorton gets tested for the coronavirus in a walk-up line Saturday, April 18,  2020, at the Williamson County Health Department in Franklin, Tenn.

He pointed out that the much-quoted modeling by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation2020欧洲杯正规平台 at the University of Washington has ping-ponged its peak projections for Florida, from the middle of May to April 23 to May 6 and most recently back to just a few days ago.

Florida could relax social distancing starting June 1 with "containment strategies that include testing, contact tracing, isolation, and limiting gathering size," according to the latest modeling from the IHME.

2020欧洲杯正规平台Determining how long the pandemic will last can only be determined by more testing, Schillinger said. More than six weeks into the pandemic, Florida has only tested 1.5 percent of its population, he said.

"The data on Florida seems to be flattening," Schillinger said. "That is good news but it doesn't mean we're anywhere near the end of this pandemic."

Members of the Re-Open Florida Task Force Executive Committee

  • Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez
  • Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis
  • Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody
  • Florida Senate President Bill Galvano
  • Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva
  • Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson
  • House Speaker-designate Chris Sprowls
  • Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran
  • Jamal Sowell, President & CEO, Enterprise Florida
  • Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez
  • Broward County Mayor Dale Holness
  • Palm Beach CountyMayor David Kerner, Mayor,
  • John Couris, President & CEO, Tampa General Hospital
  • Josh D’Amaro, President, Walt Disney World Resort
  • Todd Jones, CEO, Publix Super Markets
  • Syd Kitson, Chairman, Board of Governors for the State University System
  • Paul Reilly, Chairman & CEO, Raymond James Financial
  • Alex Sanchez, President & CEO, Florida Bankers Association
  • Eric Silagy, President & CEO, Florida Power & Light Company
  • John Sprouls, CEO, Universal Orlando Resort and Executive Vice President, Universal Parks & Resorts
  • Patrick Sunderlin, Vice President, Global Supply Chain, Lockheed Martin Corp.
  • Joe York, President, AT&T Florida and Caribbean

Contact Schweers at jschweers@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers

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