Florida preps for phase one of reopening amid coronavirus as DeSantis cites ‘light at the end of the tunnel’

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is gearing up for the majority of his state to enter phase one of the reopening process Monday amid the coronavirus outbreak, and he says he’s optimistic.

DeSantis told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” he will exercise caution but has been looking forward to making progress. The only counties not beginning phase one this week: the harder-hit Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

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“I think tomorrow is going to be a small step, I think it’s going to be a measured step, but I think it’s going to be an important step for people of Florida to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to follow a safe, smart, step-by-step approach to Florida’s recovery. We’re going to follow data and facts, but we are intent on moving forward to be able to get this society on its feet again.”

DeSantis also detailed measures he has taken to protect Florida’s substantial elderly population, particularly people in nursing homes.

“We immediately worked to limit, not have visitation, all the staff members had to be screened thoroughly before being able to go to work, we required the wearing of PPE [personal protective equipment], we sent rapid response teams to go look at infection controls, assess needs and report back,” he said. He also mentioned that he had 50 National Guard strike teams conducting surveillance testing at nursing homes to identify and limit clusters.

“And, my secretary of health administration, she said from the very beginning to hospitals, you cannot send a COVID-positive patient back into a nursing home that doesn’t have the capacity to isolate with negative pressure because when you do that, then it spreads like wildfire,” he added.

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New York, on the other hand, has seen a significant number of nursing-home deaths, leading former Gov. George Pataki to call current Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of the situation a “disgrace.”

DeSantis also said he will be introducing a mobile RV lab that will travel to nursing homes, perform tests on staff and residents and produce results in 45 minutes. He said eventually he hoped to be able to test residents’ family members so they potentially could visit their loved ones.

Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo contributed to this report.