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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis boasted on Tuesday that the numbers of coronavirus cases in his state are far below what was expected, as some states with more restrictive shutdown orders have been hit harder.
Speaking to reporters alongside President Trump at the White House, DeSantis pushed back against criticism that he waited too long to shut down his state.
"What have the results been? You look at some of the most draconian orders that have been issued in some of these states and compare Florida in terms of our hospitalizations per 100,000, in terms of our fatalities per 100,000,” DeSantis said. “I mean you go from D.C., Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, you name it. Florida has done better.”
DeSantis made clear that he was not disparaging those states, but said that projections in the media were that Florida would be hit as hard as New York or Italy, which did not turn out to be the case.
“And that has not happened because we understood we have a big, diverse state, we understood the outbreak was not uniform throughout the state, and we had a tailored and measured approach that not only helped our numbers be way below what anyone predicted but also did less damage to our state going forward,” he explained.
As an example of how Florida was not shut down to the same degree as some other states, DeSantis noted that while people were staying at home, he had road projects going on.
The governor acknowledged that his state has had its share of challenges during the outbreak, but Florida is prepared to deal with them. DeSantis has lifted bans on going to the beach and says he is considering additional ease on lockdown restrictions over the coming weeks.
“We’ve had people in the hospital, but I am now in a situation where I have less than 500 people at a state of 22 million on ventilators as of last night. And I have 6,500 ventilators that are sitting idle, unused throughout the state of Florida.”
DeSantis said that part of Florida’s response was to conduct contact tracing early on and focusing on specific areas to reduce the spread of the virus. He said that as the state moves forward on the road to recovery, he will continue to focus on at-risk populations.
Despite these results, a recent survey by Quinnipiac University released Wednesday showed that Florida residents are not ready to relax social distancing practices.
By a 72-22 percent margin, Floridians said the state should not loosen social distancing rules, according to the poll. Ninety percent of Democrats, 69 percent of independents and even 55 percent of Republicans say the social distancing rules should stay in place next month.
DeSantis and Trump also discussed the idea of blocking international travel, particularly from South American countries like Brazil, or at least requiring testing for passengers.
“If you have some of these international flights, maybe some of these airliners should – it should be on them to check before they’re getting on and coming to this country,” DeSantis said.
Trump asked if DeSantis thought flights from Brazil should be cut off.
“I’m not necessarily going to cut them off,” DeSantis said, but recommended that air travelers be tested.
Trump then asked again if DeSantis would ever want travel from other countries banned from coming in.
“If they were seeding the United States I think you should ban them,” DeSantis said.
Trump also said he was looking at tests for international travelers and requiring that passengers wear masks on flights.
Fox News' Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.