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DeSantis Touts DEO Progress On Claims; Tampa Doctor Lays Out 'Preconditions' For Reopening Economy

Ron DeSantis
CHRIS O'MEARA
/
AP Photo
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gestures during a COVID-19 news conference Monday, April 27, 2020, at the Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, Fla.

Governor Ron DeSantis says roughly 300,000 unemployment claims were processed over the weekend, as the state Department of Economic Opportunity’s system was down.

The agency announced last week that its CONNECT system, the subject of recent controversy, would be offline so work could be done to clear a portion of its massive claims backlog.

DEO says since March 15, nearly 210,000 unique claimants have been paid benefits, about 25 percent of unique claims submitted (as of Monday afternoon). DeSantis told media today progress has been made in “leaps and bounds” compared to weeks ago.

This is now, we will have done a total of over 500,000 payments now,” he said. “To put that in perspective, all of last year, I think there were only some 300,000 claimants.”

Since COVID-19-related economic restrictions were put in place mid-March, DEO reports about $200 million in unemployment assistance has been paid to Floridians. DeSantis recently put Department of Management Services head Jonathan Satter in charge of all things unemployment at DEO.

Over the last three days, DeSantis has given his daily press conferences at Florida Hospitals. The healthcare facilities are making their case to Floridians that hospitals are safe to go to, and they’ll be ready to handle patients when elective surgeries are again allowed.

John Couris, Tampa General Hospital’s CEO, spoke during DeSantis’ Monday briefing.

We are ready to open,” Couris told media. “And I’m not only speaking for Tampa General Hospital, but probably speaking for every hospital across the state.”

DeSantis suspended elective surgeries, which encompasses many procedures that can have a big impact on patient health, on March 20. His executive order doing so expires May 8.

The Governor gave some of the medical professionals from Tampa General a stage to pitch ideas for parameters in which they say the state should operate when the economy does reopen.

Tampa General’s Dr. Charles Lockwood said during the governor’s Monday press conference that Florida is in “a good position” to start reopening the economy. He says the goal now is to go from “mitigation” of COVID-19, to “containing it.”

Lockwood was invited by the Governor to prevent what he says are “four preconditions” for reopening Florida’s economy “without increasing the potential fatalities from this awful epidemic.”

1 – “that we can really access our data,” meaning the state keeps data on testing and case density per area, and who is getting sick

2 – “testing and tracing,” meaning the state will have to get to point where it can test 150 people per 100,000 in the population. To put that in perspective, that would mean the Tampa area would have to more than double its average testing per day to hit that benchmark. “Tracing” would mean having everyone who tests positive quarantined

3 – “serology” or antibody testing, something Governor DeSantis says should be arriving in Florida May 1

4 – “can’t overwhelm the capacity of our system” – Lockwood says “we’re in great shape” on that front

“That will allow us to really contain this epidemic,” Lockwood said, adding “there’ll be outbreaks and there will be flares.” But, Lockwood insists following those guidelines will allow Florida “to return to a much more normal state.”