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Doctors, Governor DeSantis, Talk Expanded COVID-19 Testing And Medical Needs

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks about COVID-19 at a press conference Sunday in Orlando.
Florida Channel/Courtesy WFTV via Live U
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis hailed the work by medical professionals in Central Florida to fight COVID-19 Sunday.

DeSantis held a press conference with doctors from Orlando Health, as well as David Strong, the president and CEO of the regional network of hospitals.

Strong said the highest number of coronavirus cases for Orlando Health was on April 8, with 54 patients. As of Sunday, there were 13 patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

The region is a major tourist destination for travelers from all over the world because of Disney World, Universal Studios, and other attractions. Those theme parks are closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Related: Florida Tourism Industry Plans To Ease Into Reopening

With the fear of coronavirus uppermost in many people’s minds, Orlando Health vice president of quality control, Dr. George Ralls, said he fears a surge of a different kind. While the hospital has continued to treat trauma cases and stroke, not everyone with an emergency has been heading to the ER. 

He said there are many cases that have been coming into his emergency rooms that were much worse than they would have been had people come in earlier.

“We've had patients who ignored chest pain for days and came into cardiac arrest, we've had patients who ignored seizures and came in with much more serious situations,” Ralls said.

Ralls said hospitals are safe, they're open and in his words, "it's time to take care of your medical needs."

DeSantis also hailed the expansion of testing for the novel coronavirus in Florida. He said the state has done more than 340,000 tests, but later explained that that number doesn't exactly correspond to the number of people tested because some have been tested multiple times.

Florida, DeSantis added, has seven drive-thru testing sites, which have conducted 80,000 tests.  

He also spoke about bringing a testing site to a Jacksonville housing project to meet the needs of underserved communities in partnership with the University of Florida.  He said 4,700 tests have now been done in underserved areas in several counties and the state is "proactively getting people tested."  

Another of the doctors on the panel addressed the issue of face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Dr. Jamal Hakim, Orlando Health Chief Operating Officer, said many people who haven’t worn masks before don’t know the proper way to handle them.

“We haven't trained people to appropriately take it off, touching the strings only, not touching the center of it, and how it's stored and how long should you use it, how should you launder it,” Hakim said. “So, your hand hygiene, and not touching your face and social distancing, especially in high risk groups, is the most important,” he said.

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Susan Giles Wantuck is our midday news host, and a producer and reporter for WUSF Public Media who focuses her storytelling on arts, culture and history.