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Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., touted his state's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and suggested that it can serve as a model for other parts of the country, as Florida begins to slowly reopen some public areas.
"Obviously, every death is something that we regret and we always want to do better to ensure that our people are safe," said Gaetz on Fox Nation's "Deep Dive," on Monday. "But Florida is the classic case study in how a light or lighter touch and how state-based control can actually work."
Gov. Ron DeSantis initially resisted ordering a statewide stay-at-home order, making Florida the only state with more than 5,000 cases – at the time – without such an order.
DeSantis did impose a lockdown order on April 3, saying, “It makes sense to make this move now."
Some in the media and Democrats in the state blasted DeSantis for the delay.
Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo said in a statement, "It is distressing that Governor Ron DeSantis waited until the coronavirus had spread to so many Floridians before finally issuing a statewide stay-at-home order. I hope this will finally slow the rise in infections and that his actions are not too late."
As of Monday, Florida’s Department of Health had confirmed 526 additional cases of coronavirus, bringing the total of known cases to 26,660 with 789 deaths. One prominent model predicts that the peak of deaths and hospitalizations for Florida has passed.
"My friend Governor DeSantis decided not to get into the business of trying to out shutdown the governor next door and the national media did pile on to him," said Gaetz, as he noted measures taken in the state.
"We were able to have smart monitoring. We're working now on sentinel [or suveillance] testing and ensuring that when we see symptomatic eruptions that we report those to the Department of Health," Gaetz continued. "And then we've had the most sophisticated contact tracing in the entire country, as highlighted by Dr. Birx."
On CBS's "Face The Nation" on Sunday, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx praised the Florida Department of Health website.
"I am trying to really drive Americans to a website that I think is really quite extraordinary," she said. "If you go to the Florida public health website on COVID, they've been able to show their communities cases and tests district by district, county by county, zip code by zip code."
"That's the kind of knowledge and power we need to put into the hands of the American people so that they can see where the virus is, where the cases are and make decisions," she explained.
Additionally, Gaetz noted that the Florida hospital system has not been overwhelmed by the spread of coronavirus, as was forecast by early models of the pandemic.
"Miami Dade County is the county where we have the biggest challenges," Gaetz said, "and even there we have 40 percent capacity in our hospitals. We have been able to meet the challenge before us."
"We keep being told by the media and everyone else, 'Look at the data. Be guided by the science," said Fox News and Fox Nation host Steve Hilton. "Well, that's some really good data there. And I think that really should inform us."
On Friday, April 18, hundreds of Floridians returned to the recently reopened beaches in northern Florida.
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