The governor of Florida has been heckled at a Miami press conference where he stressed that the coronavirus pandemic was under control.
As Ron DeSantis began his remarks, a young man began to heckle him, yelling, ‘People are dying, and you are doing nothing!’
The heckler continued: ‘You are falsifying information, and you are misleading the public.
‘More than 4,000 people have died, and you are blaming the protesters, and you are doing nothing! Shame on you!’
DeSantis continued to talk over the heckler as he was removed from the room.
Ron DeSantis was heckled on Monday afternoon at a press conference in Miami
The heckler was escorted out of the room, yelling: ‘Shame on you!’
A former naval officer and federal prosecutor, DeSantis, 41, has come under fire for Florida’s exploding number of coronavirus cases.
DeSantis, a strong ally of Donald Trump, wholeheartedly endorsed the president’s push to reopen quickly.
On Monday the Florida Department of Health reported the second-highest number of test results received in one day, with 12,624 positive test results and 35 deaths reported to the state in the previous 24 hours.
Florida had more new cases confirmed on Monday than all of Europe combined.
Nearly half of Florida’s intensive-care units are at least 90 per cent full, and more than one in five are completely full, the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez, said on Monday.
‘Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic,’ said Lilian Abbo, an infectious-disease specialist from the University of Miami Health System.
‘What we were seeing in Wuhan six months ago, now we’re there.’
Florida smashed its previous record number of coronavirus cases on Sunday, reporting more than 15,000 new positive tests (far right; data for Monday not yet shown)
Despite the steep rise in coronavirus cases in Florida, the number of daily deaths has continued to decline f
Carlos Gimenez, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, confirmed on Monday there were 2,000 people in hospital; 400 in ICU wards; and 200 on ventilators.
He said the positivity rate for COVID tests in his region was now over 25 per cent.
Gimenez has instituted a 10pm curfew ‘to try and drive the rate down’, he said.
‘We do not want to overload the Miami-Dade hospitals,’ he said.
‘We have to follow the rules, please. We can drive the level of contagion down. It’s up to us to reduce the level, to protect each other, and to protect the economy.
‘Because if we don’t, we’ll have to take additional measures and roll back some of the opening we had.’
Despite the record-breaking rise in cases, Florida beaches were crowded last weekend
Miami Beach was packed on Sunday, with huge crowds taking to the sandy shores
The latest positivity rate for the entire state was 11.5 per cent, a drop from the nearly 20 per cent last week.
There are now a total of 282,435 Florida cases confirmed, with 4,277 deaths related to COVID-19, the state health department said.
Last week, the state hit a new high death toll, but its daily fatalities remain far lower than the numbers seen in New York when it was the pandemic’s epicenter.
Despite that somewhat encouraging shift, the U.S. remains the worst-hit country in the world, with more than 3.3 million coronavirus cases and more than 135,000 deaths.
Hospitals in Miami-Dade County are now approaching capacity as coronavirus threatens to flood the healthcare system.
Stockpiles of remdesivir, the only antiviral drug shown to help coronavirus patients recover more quickly, are dwindling in Florida, leaving some hospitals in the state with no effective treatments for their patients.
Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo offered to send one day’s worth of the medication to Florida.
The small shipment was enough to treat 280 patients and act as a stopgap for Florida on Saturday, while the state was awaiting the delivery of remdesivir from the federal government.
DeSantis said that he had personally secured the new supply of the antiviral from Trump, after vehemently denying that the state needed assistance from New York.
DeSantis insisted on Monday that, statewide, there was plenty of hospital capacity remaining
Cars are seen in line as the drivers wait to be tested for COVID-19 on Sunday in Miami Beach
On Saturday 144,000 people were tested, he said.
‘The whole United States was probably not doing 144,000 tests in March,’ he said.
On Monday afternoon he said about 85 per cent of those who were being tested had negative results.
‘We think we have stabilized – we think we are heading in the right direction,’ he said.
‘As you’ve seen more cases, we’ve also seen the fatality rate decline.
‘At the moment it’s around 1.5 per cent – that’s a fraction of the national average, at about 4 per cent, and in some states it’s 5-6 per cent.’
DeSantis said the testing labs were ‘backed up’, with a seven day delay in processing tests. He said they were increasing the capacity for testing.
But he said ‘there are a lot of beds available’ in the state’s hospitals.
He said 100 people have been directed to work in Miami-Dade hospitals, out of 1,000 mobilized so far. A further 1,000 are being mobilized.
‘Personnel is the number one thing I’ve heard from our medical professionals, so we are delivering.’
Carlos Migoya, the CEO and president of Jackson Health System, said his staff were under intense pressure.
‘We are entering our fifth month of having COVID patients, and that makes it very, very difficult for all our employees – especially the healthcare workers dealing with this on a daily basis,’ he said.
‘We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of patients.
‘Two three weeks ago, it was around 200 in ICUs. Now it is 400.’
He said they were coping with the additional demand by reducing the number of non-essential surgeries.
Florida’s Republican leadership – the governor and mayor of Miami-Dade – have been strongly criticized by the state’s Democrats for not doing enough.
‘I hope that the governor and mayor will come to their senses and work with all of us to act quickly,’ said Miami-Dade Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, whom Gimenez hopes to challenge as the Republican nominee in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.
‘At best, we have a hole in our leadership at the state level and at the federal level,’ Democratic state Sen. Oscar Braynon said.
‘A coordinated effort between federal, state and local leaders would have stopped us from breaking the COVID case record yesterday.’