Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis joined President Donald Trump on Friday at White House press conference – a day after his state saw record high COVID-19 deaths that show Floridians are dying every eight minutes.
DeSantis, a first-term Republican, was in Washington DC as Trump announced he was signing four executive orders aiming at lowering prices that Americans pay for prescription drugs.
He watched on the front row before later joining Trump on stage.
The governor’s appearance at the White House came as Florida recorded 173 new coronavirus deaths on Thursday – a record high that pushed the state’s death toll to 5,653.
That 173 figures is an average of more than one death every eight minutes.
Cases in Florida have now also surpassed 400,000 with 12,444 cases reported in a single day.
The state has recorded an average of 10,700 cases each day over the last week.
Florida now ranks third on the list of states with the greatest number of COVID-19 cases. California, with 433,000 cases, and New York with nearly 416,000, are in front.
DeSantis, who has faced criticism for his handling of the virus so far, suggested on Thursday that Florida had stabilized its cases and was heading in the right direction.
He said hospital admissions and the percentage of tests coming back positive seem to be plateauing or declining in much of the state and that hospitals have sufficient capacity in their intensive care units and overall.
‘The trend is much better today than it was two weeks ago,’ DeSantis said.
‘I am confident that we will get through this. I am confident that the folks … in our hospital systems will continue to do a great job and meet the demand. There is a lot of anxiety and fear out there and I think we are going to be able to get through it. We are not there yet.’
‘If you look at what we’re seeing on the ground in places like Brevard County, I think that we’re seeing some positive momentum.
‘I do think that we are going to head in a better direction here shortly.
‘I would much rather be in a plateau than be in an escalation. We clearly stabilized with the cases. We’re definitely trending in a better direction.’
Dr Stanley Marks, chief medical officer for Memorial Healthcare System in Broward County, said Florida’s rising daily death rate shows ‘we’re not beating this disease yet.’
He said Floridians need to do a better job of isolating themselves when they can, wearing masks when they can’t and washing their hands frequently.
‘I’m concerned about my fellow Floridians that sometimes I see out doing things that just don’t make any sense in the middle of a pandemic,’ he said.
‘We have got to get our fellow citizens to understand it´s up to them to help control this disease. Right now there is no magical medical bullet.’
As the epicenter of the US outbreak has spread from New York to the South and West, federal, state and local officials have clashed over how to ease lockdowns imposed on Americans and businesses.
Requirements that residents wear masks in public have become the subject of a fierce political divide, as many conservatives argue that such orders violate the US Constitution.
DeSantis has so far refused to mandate masks in his state.
President Donald Trump, who has rejected a nationwide mask rule and been reluctant to wear one himself, this week reversed course and encouraged Americans to do so.
Trump on Thursday said he would no longer hold part of the Republican Party’s nominating convention in Florida in August because of the surge spike in coronavirus cases in the state.
‘The timing for this event is not right,’ Trump told the White House briefing.
‘It’s just not right with what´s happened recently, the flare-up in Florida. To have a big convention it´s not the right time.’
It comes as the US on Thursday passed a grim milestone of more than 4 million coronavirus infections since the first case was documented in January.
The US took 98 days to reach one million confirmed cases of COVID-19 but just 16 days to increase from 3 million to 4 million.
The total suggests at least one in 82 Americans have been infected at some point in the pandemic.
The average number of new cases is now rising by more than 2,600 per hour nationwide, the highest rate in the world.