South Florida Ramps Up Response As COVID-19 Cases Climb

Mar 23, 2020
Originally published on March 23, 2020 1:03 pm

South Florida ramped up testing and treatment measures Sunday as the number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases continues to rise, accounting for half the state’s infections.

In a press conference at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, where healthcare workers and first responders began getting tested for the virus, Gov. Ron DeSantis said another drive-through site would soon be set up in Miami-Dade County. 

The state is also building mobile field hospitals, with one underway at Fort Lauderdale International Airport and a second expected to be erected in Miami-Dade County, in case the area runs low on hospital beds.

“We hope it doesn't come to that. We do have capacity, but we’ve got to do our part to stop the spread of the virus so that we don't end up with overwhelming the healthcare system,” DeSantis said.

As of Sunday, 249 people were hospitalized in Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties.

The Hard Rock site will open for drive-through for seniors on Monday. Only those 65 and older showing signs of the virus will be tested.

The state also received a shipment of more than 300,000 N95 respirator masks on Saturday. Another 2 million are expected in the coming week, said Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. The masks have been in short supply, forcing many healthcare workers to use less effective paper masks, which only protect against fluid and large droplets.

“We will get [those] out to healthcare workers, nursing homes, and folks even at the Department of Children and Families who are doing inspections,” Moskowitz said.

DeSantis also said measures to protect the elderly at assisted living facilities and nursing homes appear to be working, despite three deaths at the Altria Willow Wood assisted living facility in Broward where three residents have died. Police and staff from the Centers for Disease and Protections are now at the facility to ensure safety measures are followed, he said.

“The facility did not follow any of the regulations. The construction staff, the food service, the regular staff, they were coming in when they were sick,” he said. “If you're somebody involved in running a nursing home, you have a special responsibility to take care of those people in your stead.” 

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.