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DeSantis Sends More Hospital Staff To South Florida; HHS Refutes Claim Governor Submitted Formal Request

Ron DeSantis
Lynne Sladky/AP
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds up a document pertaining to COVID-19 during a news conference at the old Pan American Hospital during the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, July 7, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Update, 1:30 p.m.:

Governor Ron DeSantis' communications director, Helen Ferre, tweeted Thursday afternoon the request DeSantis referenced Tuesday was actually filed with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Per Ferre, it asks the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to send 1,500 nurses to Florida.

In the tweet, Ferre says FEMA acts as "the agency that coordinates the response to this pandemic for the federal government."

DeSantis previously said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was handling the request.

Original story:

Governor Ron DeSantis says he’s requested additional healthcare personnel to help Florida hospitals deal with a growing number of COVID-19 patients – but the federal agency DeSantis says he petitioned denies it received a formal request.

DeSantis earlier in the week told media he’s called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to send nurses to Florida hospitals, particularly Jackson Health System in Miami.

“So, HHS – they’re working, we submitted a request for them to be able to send folks to Florida, particularly to South Florida,” DeSantis said, adding later, “Our request was put in at the end of last week, and it is being processed, and so we do anticipate seeing some folks as well from there. But in the meantime, I think this will be something that’s very helpful for Jackson. And obviously, we’re working with other areas of the state.”

WFSU requested from HHS more details on DeSantis’ ask. A spokesperson for the agency replied in an email: “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has not received a formal request for public health and medical assistance from the state of Florida. Informal discussions at the regional level are occurring.”

Later in the press conference, held in Miami, DeSantis said Vice President Mike Pence - who recently visited Tampa along with U.S. HHS Secretary Alex Azar - confirmed the request was being "processed."

"I did speak with the Vice President last night," DeSantis said Tuesday, "our request was put in at the end of last week, it is being processed."

An identical records inquiry was sent by WFSU to the governor’s office for details on the request to HHS. So far, the governor’s office has not responded.

DeSantis isn’t relying solely on the federal government for medical staffing reinforcements. He says he’s pulled from the state’s “contract personnel,” on Wednesday tweeted he’s directed the state to send 100 additional nurses to Jackson Health.

The governor says hospitals, particularly in most-affected areas, need a boost in personnel numbers in part because some patients, who come in for non-coronavirus reasons, test positive.

“They’re kind of incidental COVID-positives in the hospital, they would not need to be hospitalized for COVID absent the other conditions,” Desantis told reporters.

The governor says in those cases protocols like isolating a patient, even if they are asymptomatic, require more staff.