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DeSantis 'Not In A Rush' To Open Theaters And Sporting Events, But Elective Surgeries Coming Soon

Lynne Sladky
AP Photo

With recommendations on re-opening the state’s economy coming from his hand-picked task force, Governor Ron DeSantis still isn’t “in a rush” to allow for large venues to hold packed gatherings, even through May. But, he does have his eye on reinstating elective surgeries, halted last month.

The Governor has been adamant during media appearances this week that Florida has “flattened the curve.” During a press conference at Cleveland Clinic in Weston Saturday, he painted a hopeful picture of the state’s progress on testing – and the ratio of positive results coming back.

“The last week, the average positivity rate for new individuals was about 7.5 percent – so that’s a good sign,” DeSantis told reporters. The state has tested more than 320,000 people in total.

As of Saturday morning, the state sat just on the cusp of 30,000 COVID-19 infections, and had just surpassed 1,000 deaths.

DeSantis and his team are now reviewing suggestions from his Re-Open Florida task force, which this weekend opened an online portal for Floridians to submit public comment. As that process goes forward, the Governor says resuming elective surgeries is high on the list.

"My order, I think, goes to May 8. So, we’re going to be looking this weekend about how we’re going to do that. But I think, certainly, we’re going to need to do thatm” DeSantis said. “Elective procedures, I think when people hear that they think, ‘Oh, I’m going to get some type of cosmetic surgery or something.’ But these elective procedures really do affect patients’ health.”

DeSantis halted elective procedures on March 20. Some hospital executives included in the Re-Open Florida task force said stopping the procedures has hammered hospitals’ bottom line.

Meanwhile, the Governor’s position on large gatherings is more stringent than President Donald Trump’s re-opening guidelines, which allow for large venues like sports arenas and movie theaters to operate, but under “strict physical distancing protocols.”

DeSantis told media the President’s “phase 1” is “not terribly different” from what Florida is doing now – but “We’re not doing in-person sports yet, no matter what. I mean, that’s just not going to happen in May.

“I’ve been very vocal about trying to get UFC, we have coming, WWE, Tiger Woods and (Phil) Mickelson, but that’s all under the understanding, that’s for TV, so people have some content.”

The Governor says he’s interested in taking a “methodical” and “data-driven” approach to re-opening, saying “I’m not in a rush to do anything, I would rather do it right.”

A next step toward re-opening is improved testing. And part of that will mean ramping up testing in the three labs run by the state.

“We have three state labs – Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami. And they do a good job, but they’re only processing hundreds of samples a day, is their maximum,” DeSantis said. We want high throughputs, so that we can do a significant amount in the state labs.”

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.