Gov. Ron DeSantis Calls to Discuss Florida’s COVID Plans

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RUSH: We are happy to welcome back to the program, the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis. Thank you for making some time for us today. I saw yesterday that you were pushing to see the schools open. I said I had to talk to you to find out what you’re facing here, and then, once I got you here, I have a number of other questions about the status of the virus throughout your state and how you’re dealing with it. How are you holding up during all this?

DESANTIS: Oh, we’re doing good, Rush. I mean, well, first of all, I hear you’re doing better, which we’re really thrilled to hear and look forward to you making a recovery, getting you back out on the golf course soon. I have not been able to play much, obviously, since February. We’ve been in this and not just in this but obviously wanting to put people back to work. We had our state budget and all that. I vetoed a Florida-record $1 billion from the state budget. And, you know, these are things we have to do. So we’re working hard on this, but, you know, we’ve got a lot of great folks throughout the state, phenomenal doctors and, you know, so we’re hanging in there.

RUSH: Well, the news every day, the media every day, we are being inundated, we’re being pummeled with record number of new cases reported, every day, setting records in your state, in Florida, Texas, Arizona. And as I look at it, it appears that an effort’s being made to associate number of cases with either instant death or ultimate death, that this number that they’re reporting is going to lead to that same number dying.

And I looked at the death rate. The death rate is actually coming way, way down as the number of cases — and this is true in Florida as well — as the number of cases rise, the death rate is down. And Dr. Fauci today said that’s a false premise. And I don’t understand what he means by that. Why in the world is that not good news?

DESANTIS: Well, obviously, I mean, I think it is good news. Part of the reason we have a lower fatality rate in Florida is because we really focused on protecting those people who are most vulnerable to the virus, such as our senior citizens living in long-term care facilities. We barred hospitals from sending the sick coronavirus patients back into nursing homes ’cause we knew it would lead to spread and more death amongst the most vulnerable population.

And if you compare us to states that did the opposite where they forced them back in, you know, the numbers speak for themselves. But what we’ve also done since March and April is we’ve established 12 COVID-only nursing facilities around the state so that if someone tests positive in a nursing home and they can’t be isolated properly we have a place where they could be transferred and be safe and not put the other residents at risk.

So we’ve done a lot of things like that to lower the burden on the most vulnerable. But, you know, you also look at things like we are testing way more than what we were testing in March and April. And it’s definitely true, California, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, we have seen more spread over the past three weeks, that is true, but we’re also testing anyone that walks in the door. March and April around the country, to get a test, you had to be symptomatic and initially you had to be 65 and older at a lot of these drive-through test sites.

Well, now, people can come in in their twenties and they don’t have to have symptoms, you test, and, you know, some of them test positive. The number one age right now in Florida that has the most cases is age 21, which that would not have been the case in March and April ’cause a lot of those 21-year-olds wouldn’t have even qualified for a test. So what we’re dealing with now is different than the Northeast in March and April. And if you look at Texas, you look at Florida, you look at some of those states, we’ve had what we thought everybody said we wanted was a flatter curve. You know, we flattened it out in March and April.

And now obviously you still have infections that you deal with. But we’re in really good shape to be able to deal with it. I mean, the nursing home situation, you know, we’ve got all those 12 facilities. We do have every hospital can test anyone that comes in now so they’re able to prevent it from spreading, you know, in the hospital. We have therapeutics available now. And it’s just down the line, I think that’s contributing to these better outcomes.

But, yeah, I think the outcomes, you know, are really what matters. And look, Rush, if I could just snap my fingers and get rid of the virus I would do it, but that’s not how these viruses work. Flatten the curve was never that you wouldn’t have any more infections. It was that you would spread ’em out over a longer period of time.

So if I have my druthers, I’d obviously rather those infections go to people who are healthy and can fight it off rather than the most vulnerable. And if you’re able to do that and shield the most vulnerable, you will have a lower fatality rate. And our case fatality rate is like four to five times lower than some of the higher-death states, you know, that we had in the Northeast.

RUSH: Yeah. I’ve looked at the numbers. Florida is practically in the middle of all 50 states in terms of the death rate per million number of cases. Still today, New Jersey and New York and Connecticut are leading in deaths per million. And yet they’re not in the news anymore. They’re being reported as having solved the problem, they’re on the downhill swing, everything’s looking good, Governor Cuomo is brilliant, blah, blah, blah.

Meanwhile, they’re focusing on you, they’re focusing on Texas. I saw a story yesterday, guy from the Hoover institute, Scott Atlas, who’s been really studying the data. And he found that the ICU units in Texas hospitals are pretty much full, which, by the way, is how hospitals make money. But, secondly, only 15% of the ICU beds were COVID-19 patients. The other 85% were filled by people who now are free to come in for elective surgeries or cancer screenings when they weren’t a month or two ago.

DESANTIS: Not only that, Rush, you’re exactly right, but it’s even more than that. In March and April, because of the amount of fear and hysteria that was out there, you had a huge drop in people coming for things like heart attacks and stroke. And so what’s happened is people put off care ’cause they thought that they may get coronavirus in the hospital or they thought that all the hospitals were overflowing with corona patients and they just didn’t want to go in because of that.

So now you have people that are going back and showing up to get the care they need. Now, unfortunately, some of those folks who deferred care, their conditions are more acute now. But we would rather have them go in and get the care they need. And what they don’t tell you when they run these things is, you know, in Florida right now, you know, we’ve got about 6,000 ICU beds statewide. We’ve got about a thousand available. But they usually run much higher than that. They usually run at 95, 98%. That’s how hospitals work.

So we’ve had between 15 and 20% available for the past like five or six weeks. That’s a lot of space for how these hospitals are supposed to operate. And not only that, they had the capacity to double their ICU capacity, if need be. And one of the things that the media was doing in Florida is they’re going around saying there are all these counties that have no ICU capacity, which was actually a grain of truth, Rush, ’cause we have a lot of rural counties that don’t have ICUs at all. So if somebody needs that type of care, they go to one of the bigger medical systems in the state. So a lot of this is being put out, I think, to scare people. It’s not productive. And look, if they’re using it for political reasons ’cause they don’t like Republican governors – (crosstalk)

RUSH: Amen.

DESANTIS: But no, here’s the thing that bothers me, is that people do get frightened when they see some of this stuff, and it does deter some people potentially from going in to seek care. And that’s a bad consequence to have happen.

RUSH: We are talking to the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis. I want to go back to the number of cases. You mentioned that testing and widely expanded testing is one of the reasons why so many new cases are being reported. Is there any other reason for it? What else is happening besides expanded testing?

DESANTIS: So it’s expanded testing numbers, looser criteria, really no criteria to get a test, so we get more asymptomatic. And you have had as I mentioned, you know, the last three to four weeks you’ve seen an increase in the percent of people testing positive. So there is spread and throughout the Sunbelt I think is a good — you know, you do look at that. So today we were 14%. You know, throughout all of May and the beginning of June, we were typically 4% positivity. So that is something that we’re concerned about.

Now, I think a lot of that is being driven by some of these younger demographics who are spreading it more readily. But that has definitely been a factor. But if we were to test only symptomatic people, which is typically how testing works — I mean, normally if you’re just going about your business, you don’t go and just get tests for no reason. You know, the numbers would be very much lower in terms of raw case count.

So some of this stuff, the cases, it focuses on testing, it focuses on criteria and all this other stuff. But we do have a higher positivity rate. I think you’re seeing that in Texas, Arizona, Southern California, I think a little bit in Georgia now. So there’s something going on in the Sunbelt for sure. But, you know, our folks are in, they’re handling it, and we’re gonna be able to get through it.

RUSH: You have a couple more minutes? I got a break here, and if you gotta go, I understand it.

DESANTIS: No, no.

RUSH: We’d love to have you.

DESANTIS: Absolutely, Rush, happy to.

RUSH: Governor DeSantis. We’ll be back and continue right after this.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: And we’re back. Happy to have with us the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, who is discussing with us the latest happening with the coronavirus and the economy in the state of Florida. Let me ask you about the schools and opening up. This is what I heard yesterday that made me really want to talk to you, that you were insisting that the schools open for in-person education this fall. Is that still your intention?

DESANTIS: Oh, absolutely, Rush. Look, we went through a period where our country was shut down where Home Depot was considered an essential service, where Walmart was considered an essential service —

RUSH: By the way, is anybody really trying to pressure you into shutting down again? And if so, who?

DESANTIS: I don’t think so. I think people realize —

RUSH: Okay.

DESANTIS: — the whole thing with that was about hospital capacity. We’ve got it. We know what we need to do. And basically a lot of what needs to be done is just kind of the basic social interactions and people take precautions. So not really. And I think people realize that, you know, we’ve gotta have a functioning society. But, you know, with respect to the schools, Walmart, essential service, Home Depot, essential service, fast food, essential service. How is it that the schools for our kids would not be considered an essential service? And I think it’s vital. I think that they’ve fallen way behind. And I think that the data on this is very clear —

RUSH: Well, how are the kids gonna eat if the schools aren’t open, because we learned in 1995 that the parents don’t know how to feed their kids.

DESANTIS: Well, you have all — it’s funny, though, you have people would normally say schools are vital, some of them are now saying don’t open. Our view in Florida is we need to have in-person instruction. Now, if parents aren’t comfortable, we’re providing a virtual opt-out. But just think of all the different things in terms of obviously education, but in terms of socializing, in terms of activities.

I mean, I want our high school athletes to be able to play football and do all these other things. It’s very, very important, and I think that the data is clear, CDC’s been very clear on this. Under 18 your chance of being hospitalized by coronavirus is far, far less, for influenza and for deaths, far less. And if you have no underlying condition, it probably is as close to zero as you can get.

And so, you know, at some point I think we have to recognize that science. And, Rush, another thing all of the European Union countries have come to this conclusion, that the kids aren’t vectors of transmission. That was the fear in March, was it’s just like the flu where they would pass it on to the adults and that would create community spread. Well, everyone that’s looked at it in all these European countries say the kids, for whatever reason, are not even vectors of transmission for coronavirus. So we have to look at the facts, the data, the science, and then we need to be governed by that rather than politics or emotion.

RUSH: Exactly. I’ll tell you what makes the most sense to me, especially now after months and months of data and research and being able to watch this thing happen all over the world. It seems to me that the people that are most vulnerable — we know who they are. They’re elderly. They have a pre-existing condition. Their lungs are weakened, but you shield them, you protect them, you quarantine them. You make sure you reach them, and you keep them out of harm’s way.

But the young, the people you were just talking about, let ’em live their lives, get ’em out there, let them live their lives. We’re seeing here from the massive infectious rate, that the numbers of people actually showing symptoms is not equal to the number of people being reported as having cases. But at some point, life has to go on. You cannot be afraid of life. We’ve learned enough. We’ve never shut down schools for flu, and flu has killed a lot more people so far than the virus has.

Now, this virus hasn’t been around as long as the flu, obviously. But we’re doing a lot of things we have never done before that are harming us here. And, you know, you may not be able to say this, but I can. There is a political element here, and it’s called damage Donald Trump. And that’s why I think you are so courageous in bucking that, without saying so, but you’re doing everything you can to keep this state up and running as normal as can be, economically, socially, every which way possible. You’re doing a bang-up job, I think, and I just wanted to tell you that.

DESANTIS: Well, thanks, Rush. And, you know, you made the point about we know who the vulnerable are. You know, with the Spanish flu of 1918 that people like to compare this to, the Spanish flu, it would kill healthy soldiers, World War I soldiers, it would kill kids at very high rates. And so it had a more pervasive impact and more indiscriminate impact.

Well, here we’re in a situation where we know, the data is so clear about who is the at-risk population and who is very low risk. And so you’re exactly right. Society needs to function. And, you know, that used to be the standard view amongst people who were considered public health experts, that you want society to function. Shutting down is not gonna help things. It creates all kind of other problems and we gotta keep society going. And then you obviously could take appropriate precautions within the context of the economy being running, schools, all that.

So it’s vital that we do it. And I think that that’s gonna be where most parents are gonna end up because once they’re presented with the data, you know, they understand. Back in March, look, a lot of people didn’t know. It was kind of a new thing. And I think we’ve seen a track record on this that, you know, folks should be comfortable. Now, my kids aren’t school age yet. I got a 3-year-old daughter, 2-year-old son, and a newborn daughter. And I can tell you if they were school age, I would have zero concern sending them.

RUSH: Oh, that’s excellent. That’s powerful. That will have influence over people. Look, I have one minute. And this is unfair. But you’re a professional. I want to ask you. As governor, what’s the one thing that, not scares you, but what’s the one that gives you pause during all this, the one thing that’s out of your control that you really worry about most?

DESANTIS: I think it’s confidence. I want all of our people to have confidence to understand that we’re gonna be able to get through this, we’re gonna be able to do well. And that it may be something that’s part of our lives, but it’s not something that should consume our lives. And so having that broad-based confidence, I think we’ve gotten a lot of it in the last couple months.

Obviously now with the cases being so there, I think some people are back on edge. But have confidence in us as a community and a state to be able to plow ahead, you know, put people back to work, educate the kids, and also do our best to protect those most vulnerable among us who are very susceptible to this virus.

RUSH: That’s excellent. You know, you’re right. Everybody can use a little additional dose of confidence. It goes a long way. Governor, thank you very much. I’m glad you carved the time out for us today. It’s always a pleasure to talk. I haven’t played golf since late February or March. No, it’s late February. So maybe this thing can calm down enough so we can coordinate a trip to some golf course somewhere.

DESANTIS: Yeah, you get better, let me know when you’re ready. Hopefully we’ll have the corona going in a good direction and then it will be a great comeback for me, I can tell you that. You’re a great guy, Rush. We really are blessed to have you – (crosstalk)

RUSH: Well, thank you. Thank you very much.

DESANTIS: — Palm Beach at the EIB Southern Command. We’re proud as Floridians.

RUSH: Thank you, sir. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida.

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