WASHINGTON - In an Oval Office meeting with the president Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that he will outline a reopening plan for the state on Wednesday – one day before his existing safer-at-home order is due to expire.
DeSantis, a longtime ally of President Donald Trump, was welcomed to the White House for a discussion about how states can reopen their economies after the COVID-19 shutdown.
“This has been a good example of a partnership between the federal government and a state government,” the president told DeSantis. “Ron has been great. Some of your friends, some of the other governors have done a good job. But some haven’t done a good job, I’ll be honest with you.”
Most of the conversation was centered around Florida’s response to the virus. The governor compared Florida’s response to what he called “draconian” measures taken in states like New York and Ohio, pointing out Florida’s rate of infection and hospitalization fell far below worst-case scenarios suggested when the pandemic began.
“I’m not criticizing those states. But everyone in the media was saying Florida is going to be like New York or Italy and that has not happened,” DeSantis said. “We had people in the hospital, but I’m now in a situation where I have less than 500 people – in a state of 22 million – on ventilators last night. And I have 6,500 ventilators sitting unused in the state of Florida.”
With Florida’s curve flattened, many of the state’s counties are waiting for guidance from the governor on what steps they should take to reopen the economy. DeSantis’s safer-at-home order is due to expire at the end of the month, but he has not yet said what comes next.
In Tampa on Monday, DeSantis said the reopening process would be a slow one, with baby steps. He echoed that Tuesday from the White House.
“I’m going to make an announcement tomorrow. But I think for Florida, going from where we are now to phase one [of the reopening] is not a very big leap,” DeSantis said. “We’re going to approach it in a very measured, thoughtful, and data-driven way.”
The governor referenced his task force that has been meeting by phone for the last week, explaining that his goal was to instill confidence in public safety while allowing businesses to reopen and get cash flowing to businesses and state coffers.
“Drive by Home Depot now,” DeSantis chuckled. “They’ll be 6 feet apart waiting to go into the store. They’re doing it. People are adapting and innovating.”
President Trump also praised Florida for accelerating road construction projects during the shutdown. DeSantis specifically mentioned the Howard Frankland Bridge widening project in Tampa as examples of work that took advantage of reduced traffic.
“They were fixing bridges down there where normally there would be a traffic nightmare and they’re fixing bridges and there’s hardly any traffic,” the president said.
No schedule has been released for the governor's announcement Wednesday.